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‘Game changer’: Ford, Tory break ground on Ontario line, vow to protect local businesses

Click to play video: 'Premier Doug Ford says construction beginning on Ontario Line project' Premier Doug Ford says construction beginning on Ontario Line project
WATCH: Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Sunday that construction was beginning on the Ontario Line subway project, saying it would be an "absolute game-changer" for Toronto. Ford said the project would have 15 stations and connect to more than 40 other transit routes, and would run from Ontario Place up to the Ontario Science Centre. – Mar 27, 2022

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was joined by politicians from all levels of government Sunday to break ground on the Ontario Line.

Ford shared the announcement with elected officials including Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation, Omar Alghabra, the federal Minister of Transport, and Toronto Mayor John Tory.

Ford said the completion of the Ontario Line would mark the largest subway expansion in Canadian history. He said its construction was projected to generate up to $11 billion in economic benefits for Toronto.

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

 

The Ontario Line is the Ford government’s signature transit project and will connect Ontario Place with the Ontario Science Centre.

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The route will be almost 16 kilometres long with 15 stations. Metrolinx expects its daily ridership to reach 388,000 boardings per day, with trains as frequent as every 90 seconds during rush hour.

“The Ontario Line will be an absolute game changer for the city,” Ford said.

The province said in a media release that, by 2041, the Ontario Line would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14,000 tonnes annually.

A map of the Ontario Line. Metrolinx

Its construction will mean significant disruption in Toronto and parts of Queen Street will be closed for more than four years.

Ford, Tory and Phil Verster, the CEO of Metrolinx, promised plans were in place to limit the disruption for businesses, especially at the Yonge Street and Queen Street intersection.

“If there are special requirements in different neighbourhoods, we invest in those neighbourhoods in a big way,” Verster said.

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Tory admitted construction work for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had damaged local businesses and said governments had to “do better.”

“Eglinton went on for a long time,” he said. “The bottom line is that we have to do better than that because, while there will be benefits to business from these transit lines, at the same time, we have to make sure they survive to see the benefits.”

Read more: Parts of Queen Street in downtown Toronto set to close for 4.5 years due to Ontario Line construction

The Ontario Line was announced in 2019 as part of a $28.5 billion public transit vision unveiled by the province.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said in a tweet that if his party forms government after the June provincial election, the project will still proceed. The Ontario Greens re-issued a call to cut transit fares in half in response to soaring gas prices.

Tory acknowledged the public can be skeptical of major transit announcements. He touted the ground breaking as evidence all three levels of government were delivering on their promises.

“A lot of the time people see us announcing these things, but then they wonder when it is going to get built,” he said.

A preliminary design business case for the Ontario Line released in 2020 suggested the line would open in 2030, three years after its initial target date.

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Verster said Metrolinx had not settled on an updated date for it to open. He said the provincial transit agency was going to “wait until the market closes” on construction proposals before announcing new timelines.

The route was proposed to reduce overcrowding on the Toronto Transit Commission’s Line 1.

The province also said the Ontario Line, coupled with a GO transit connection at East Harbour, could reduce crowding at Union Station by as much as 14 percent during rush hour.

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