New Ontario government transit panel not ruling out LRT

Click to play video 'New transit panel created by Ontario government hasn’t ruled out future LRT projects' New transit panel created by Ontario government hasn’t ruled out future LRT projects
WATCH ABOVE: When the Ford government unveiled its plans to extend two existing Toronto subway lines, there was no mention of LRT. But an expert panel focusing on delivering it all on time hasn’t ruled out the possibility of recommending above-ground rail. Matthew Bingley reports.

When Premier Doug Ford unveiled his government’s massive transit plan last April, it included extensions for two subway lines and made no mention of new light rail projects.

But a new expert panel created by the province to go over the details the nearly $30-billion transit plan doesn’t rule out building new rail lines above ground.

The Ontario government wants to extend the Yonge Line north to Richmond Hill and scrap the City of Toronto’s plans for a one-stop subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre in favour of one that goes farther and includes two more stops.

READ MORE: Toronto still without many answers on provincial transit plan

In July, the government issued a report to convene a panel of experts to go over the details of the transit plan. Included in that mandate is considering vertical or horizontal alignments of future rail projects.

Story continues below advertisement

The head of Metrolinx, which oversees transit planning for the province in the Greater Toronto Area, said talk of rail configuration at this stage is simply “business as usual.”

Phil Verster said it was simply part of making sure the project could be delivered on time with the correct scope.

But during the provincial election and his time on Toronto city council, Ford repeatedly signaled his preference of subways over LRT — which is why even the remote possibility of considering future LRT projects is raising eyebrows.

READ MORE: Ontario government introduces Toronto subway upload bill in omnibus transportation legislation

Still, Scarborough Coun. Michael Thompson said he wasn’t concerned and thinks the review should be expected.

Thompson did reiterate the desire of his constituents to see subways built as one reason to remain confident it would get done.

“The subway has been the preference I have actually fought a municipal election on that as part of my platform,” he said.

“So I think it is something that people do want.”

ONTARIO BUDGET 2019: No money for Sheppard line extension, new bridges on Toronto relief line

While Thompson wouldn’t comment on what would happen if the panel recommended a LRT would be best for Scarborough, he said the project needs to be delivered on time.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s a view echoed by Toronto’s mayor John Tory.

“If these experts look at this and find a way to do it less expensively or quicker, I’m all ears,” said Tory.

“But it has to be done very quickly because we’ve got to get on with building the transit.”

The panel’s review is scheduled to be completed by the end of September with its findings to be presented to the City and TTC soon after.