Murray announces two-stop, $1.4B design for Scarborough subway

WATCH: Tired of the wrangling at city hall, the province is going to build a shorter Scarborough subway extension on its own. Jackson Proskow reports.

TORONTO – An abbreviated plan for the Scarborough subway plan Wednesday afternoon that includes a minimum of two stops and follows the alignment of the current SRT line has won the support of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

The original plan, approved by city council for a cost of roughly $2.8 billion, had three stops but served only one priority neighbourhood.

This new plan, announced by Transportation Minister Glen Murray on Wednesday, would serve two priority neighbourhoods and cost $1.4 billion.

“We are announcing that we are putting $1.4 billion into extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre,” Murray said.

And the mayor, an unlikely ally of Murray, released a statement calling the plan a “huge victory.”

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“I campaigned on extending the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line to the Scarborough Town Centre.  I want to thank the Province for helping me deliver on that promise,” Ford said in his statement. “I said we were going to build subways to Scarborough and that is exactly what we are doing.”

However, the new plan is significantly different than the concept approved by councillors in April. TTC CEO Andy Byford said the new plan would have to be approved by the TTC.

The new plan would run along the same line as the current SRT line, forcing thousands of commuters onto buses for the duration of the subway construction.

“That is a consequence of building the subway along the same alignment and saving the taxpayers a lot of money,” Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker said Wednesday. “So it is unfortunate, but I think certainly my residents will be willing to say ‘you know what, I will take three or four or five years of inconvenience riding a bus while they build us a subway.’”

WATCH: Glen Murray announces a new plan for the Scarborough subway. 

This subway announcement is the latest development in Scarborough’s transit saga: while the city and province signed an agreement to build a light rail transit (LRT) line as part of a larger $30 billion bundle of projects, that was overturned earlier this summer when city council backed a Scarborough subway to Sheppard station instead.

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During the city council debate that eventually approved the subway, opponents of the LRT suggested residents forced onto buses cancelled any benefits of the LRT.

“It’s not the best case scenario. If we had another alignment where you didn’t have to be interrupted for four years and take a bus for four years, it would be better,” De Baeremaeker said.

However, Murray promised “good bus service” through Scarborough for the duration of the construction.

The new plan would extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Town Centre and nixes the planned stop at Sheppard. While the poster presented at Murray’s morning press conference shows only two stops, Murray said the two stops are a “minimum” and the Ontario government is willing to add stops if either the municipal or federal government puts forward additional cash.

His office released a revised map later Wednesday afternoon that removed references to specific stops.

Murray mentioned several times during his press conference that the Ontario government was the only level of government to raise money for the subway, and said there are “lots of opinions at city hall, [but] not a lot of cheques.”

But in a written statement to Global News, Michèle-Jamali Paquette, director of communications for the Ministry of Infrastructure, said Murray’s “repeated press conferences” are “counterproductive” and there had in fact been discussions between Mayor Rob Ford and the federal government.

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“I would like you to know that we have received a letter from Mayor Ford regarding the Scarborough subway project which indicates that Council expects a response by September 30th 2013,” Paquette wrote. “We will respond to the mayor’s letter in due course.”

A poster outlining the newly proposed plan for the Scarborough subway. September 04, 2013. Jackson Proskow / Global News. Jackson Proskow / Global News

Councillor Karen Stintz, chair of the TTC and outspoken supporter of the Scarborough subway during the last round of debate, found out about Wednesday’s announcement through Twitter. Stintz says neither the minister’s office nor Metrolinx consulted with her about the province’s new plan.

“Council approved a subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line to Sheppard,” Stintz said. “And the reason we did that was because we felt it was in our interest as a city to have the network be extended to Sheppard to make sure Kennedy was a continuous transfer and also to avoid shutting down the SRT.”

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Stintz said prior to Murray’s announcement that an abbreviated line without the planned stop at Sheppard is not “a win for Scarborough.”

“Council will not be revisiting this decision. Council has debated the LRT and the subway. We have a signed, master agreement. What council said was ‘if there’s money available to build a subway, we should build a subway. If there’s not money to build a subway, then we’ll go back to the signed master agreement, which is an LRT.”

WATCH: TTC Chair Karen Stintz says she was never informed that Murray would be making a major announcement regarding the Scarborough subway – and that she first learned about it over Twitter

On July 16, city council voted to invest $500 million raised through increased development charges and property taxes for a subway through Scarborough if the province pays for two-thirds of the cost and the federal government invests money.

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“Right now that is the decision of council and that is our understanding of where we are at,” Stintz said. “If the minister announces something different than what council approved, then I can only assume it’s the minister’s project.”

– With files from Jackson Proskow

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