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Coun. Phil Squire calls for more options, more time in London transit debate

Coun. Phil Squire held a news conference on the steps of city hall on March 25, 2019. Jaime McKee/980 CFPL

Coun. Phil Squire is calling for another look at bus rapid transit (BRT), this time without dedicated lanes.

The London city councillor called an abrupt news conference for 2:30 p.m. Monday, just 90 minutes before councillors were set to debate which of the 19 potential transit projects eligible for senior government funding should be prioritized.

READ MORE: City councillors to decide fate of London’s BRT project

Squire said he had information from Ontario’s minister of transportation that would impact planning.

“I felt it was my obligation to let the public know of new information that we have just received from the Ministry of Transportation that is not contained within the report on the SPPC (Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee) agenda,” Squire told reporters gathered at the front steps of London City Hall.

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“The report has led council to believe that, in order to be considered for ICIP (Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program) funding, dedicated bus lanes are required.”

Squire then read a letter he said he had received just one hour earlier from Ontario Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek confirming that the five transit projects that make up the city’s BRT plan could be submitted without dedicated bus lanes.

READ MORE: London city staff issue transit recommendations for $370M in senior government funding

The Ward 6 councillor has been a long-standing opponent of the city’s proposed BRT plan, citing frustration over the location of the north-south route and, most recently, criticizing the decision to divide the BRT plan into five components that could be pursued independently.

The five projects that make up the BRT plan are part of 19 potential transit initiatives eligible for $370 million in senior government funding.

Councillors are expected to make a final decision on which of those projects should be submitted for funding during Tuesday’s meeting, but Squire said that arbitrary deadline is impeding city council’s work.

READ MORE: London politicians refute former mayor’s claims, stress sense of urgency in transit debate

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“We were provided with a very hard deadline of March 31, when we had to get this done, so we’re now presented with cases that have no backup business cases or financial information. Clearly, Minister Yurek is saying: ‘Take your time, London,'” Squire said.

Squire is pushing for councillors to have the option to review the BRT components without dedicated lanes and to have more time for city council to make its decision.

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