ABOVE: Queen’s Park bureau chief Alan Carter explains what today’s announcement means for Scarborough commuters
TORONTO – The federal government will invest $660 million to fund a subway expansion in Toronto’s east end, announced Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Monday.
The finance minister says the money is a “done deal” and suggested construction could start within a year.
“I want to thank the many thousands of residents of the City of Toronto who have spoken loud and clear on this subject,” said Mayor Rob Ford. “Residents of Scarborough have waited long enough for quality rapid transit, and folks, that wait is almost over.”
Flaherty also announced the federal government will recommit $330 million for the Sheppard East light-rail transit project.
Prime Minister Harper announced Sunday that his government will help pay for the Scarborough subway plan but at the time didn’t divulge how much Ottawa would pitch in.
“This is good news for Toronto commuters who obviously continue to face the challenges of gridlock,” Harper said Sunday, flanked by Ford and Flaherty.
Flaherty said the $660 million is tied to the plan city council recommended but would not say if the money would still be available pending any further change to the plan.
WATCH: Jim Flaherty: “You have our money, now let’s get this subway built”
The provincial government offered $1.4 billion for a shorter subway extension, but a map shown today suggests the subway will be longer and match the city’s original, costlier plan.
The proposed three-stop subway would extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line from Kennedy Station up to Sheppard Station.
The province’s plan, announced by transportation minister Glen Murray, would only have two stops ending at the Scarborough Town Centre.
Murray said Monday that he wouldn’t commit his support to the plan backed by the city and the federal government but that he is willing to sit down and discuss options with the federal government. He added he wouldn’t “abandon a fully funded project,” however a report released by the TTC Monday cast doubt on the idea the plan could be funded by the province’s investment.
Premier Kathleen Wynne welcomed federal investment as a “positive development” but finds it “disconcerting” that the federal government’s investment is not part of a broad national transit strategy.
“I hope what it leads to is that the federal government will now be able to take part in a systematic discussion of building transit in this region,” Wynne said. “Ad hoc investments are not how you build infrastructure.”
However, the plan does have its detractors.
Councillor Josh Matlow, a long proponent of the fully funded light-rail transit plan that was thrown out by a majority of councillors in July in favour of the subway, said on Twitter that Toronto’s taxpayers will see hikes to property taxes unless other levels of government cover capital and operating costs.
He warned priority projects, such as the downtown-relief line, could be delayed or even scrapped entirely as a result of the Bloor-Danforth extension.
-With a file from The Canadian Press