Feds say they’ll chip in on Milton GO train corridor expansion, but no firm funding announced

Click to play video: 'Plan for high-frequency rail between Toronto, Quebec City fuels more election speculation'
Plan for high-frequency rail between Toronto, Quebec City fuels more election speculation
WATCH ABOVE: The Trudeau Liberals announced plans for a high-frequency rail line between Toronto and Quebec City, and it's fuelling more election speculation as the party appears to be targeting electoral ridings they hope to keep or take from others. But as Mike Le Couteur reports, while it's welcomed in the much-travelled region, there are some communities feeling left out. – Jul 6, 2021

As speculation about a potential national election grows each day, the federal government has announced it will help fund critical infrastructure enhancements that could see all-day GO Transit train service on the Milton line.

However, despite the announcement on Tuesday, there was no specific funding commitment or timeframe for the project when pressed by Global News.

“I know especially in a minority parliament there are all kinds of speculation about the election timing, but this for me was governing in action,” Transport Minister and Mississauga Centre MP Omar Alghabra said in an interview Tuesday afternoon, noting the federal cabinet approved funding the project in principle.

“I realize that there will always be skepticism until the final completion of the project, and I am personally and our government is committed to doing it as quickly as possible.”

Read more: Feds set to begin procurement process for Toronto-Quebec City high-frequency rail corridor

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Alghabra announced that under a federal trade corridors program that aims to create extra capacity in bottleneck areas, the government would “pay up to 50 per cent for the enhancement of passenger rail service on the Milton line as well as increased capacity for freight service.”

“[It] in turn will allow for all-day, two-way (service). This is now the concept of the project we’re working on,” he said.

Alghabra said Metrolinx, the Ontario government agency that oversees GO Transit, still needs to submit a final plan outlining costs and project details, but overall it’s estimated to cost $1 billion.

The Milton line corridor is heavily used by freight companies, leaving little room to ramp up service on the Milton line — a busy rail line that typically carries around 30,000 people a day and services growing suburban areas.

Read more: Feds invest over $10B to help Ontario fund 4 major transit routes in Toronto

But in a letter sent by Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney to Alghabra on Monday that was obtained by Global News, she called for a firm commitment on how to pay for the upgrades and said to date there hasn’t been a definitive plan for how to pay for it all.

“I hope you would agree that the importance of this corridor requires an unambiguous funding commitment. Discussions with federal officials to date only speak to aspirational commitments and do not provide the [certainty] required to move this project forward,” Mulroney wrote.
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“In fact, I raised this very issue during our call on Aug. 3 and you indicated that your government is not prepared to commit to a funding amount.”

During an announcement in Mississauga Tuesday morning, Ontario government officials weren’t included even though the improvements would impact the provincially owned GO Transit.

Read more: Proposed GO Transit line would connect Cambridge to Guelph

When asked about the matter, a senior Ontario government source not authorized to speak publicly told Global News officials are still waiting to find out how much exactly will be budgeted federally before submitting a final application to proceed with the project and undertaking firm negotiations.

As discussions carry on between both levels of government, federal and provincial representatives couldn’t confirm when, if ultimately at all, construction would begin.

However, as the project remains on uncertain footing, Alghabra called the Milton rail corridor expansion an urgent infrastructure need for residents in Mississauga and Milton.

“We need to make sure the project is completed, so we are committed to working with the Ontario government on making sure that it happens as quickly as possible,” he said.

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