The city of Toronto has already spent more than $200 million on planning, design and other work for four major transit projects that the province plans to take over and alter.
The significant expenditure to date on the quartet of new lines raises questions about how much of the work already complete would be wasted if Premier Doug Ford’s government changes direction on the projects, and whether the province would compensate Toronto for any sunk costs it’s incurred.
“I’m concerned about the significant time and resources the city has already invested in the advancement of city council’s priority transit projects,” said Councillor and TTC Chair Jaye Robinson (Ward 15, Don Valley West).
She argued it was “critical that we avoid duplication wherever possible,” and said she was worried that “ultimately, the sunk costs will be borne by the residents of Toronto.”
According to figures provided by the TTC, the city and its transit agency have spent:
- $8 million on the Yonge North extension
The spending totals $214.4 million and dates back to 2008, although most of the expenditures were in the past five years. TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the work included early concept studies, project management, planning, design and geotechnical work. The money spent on the Scarborough subway extension also covers utility relocations.
While the federal and provincial governments have pledged funding for planning on the projects, neither the city nor TTC could immediately say whether the money the city has spent so far included contributions from other levels of government. A city spokesperson said the $182.5 million spent to date on the Scarborough project was entirely city funds, however.
Last week, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government signalled its intention to change course on the four projects as part of its contentious proposal to “upload” ownership of Toronto’s rail network to the province.
Queen’s Park wants to speed up work on the Yonge North extension, which would push TTC’s Line 1 into Richmond Hill, in order to accelerate its opening date “to the greatest extent possible.”
The province also wants to bury a “significant portion” of the Eglinton West LRT, an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown line that would run between Mount Dennis and Pearson Airport. The city’s plan would mostly have the line run at-grade.
Ford’s government would also add two stops to the Line 2 subway extension into Scarborough, pushing it up to Sheppard Ave. E. The city has been more recently planning a one-stop version that would end at the Scarborough Town Centre. A major city report on the transit plans scheduled for release Wednesday is expected to show planning for the extension has advanced far enough that staff recommend it be put out to tender.
The province is proposing the most drastic change to the relief line, which under the city’s plan would be a conventional subway connecting Pape station on Line 2 to Queen and Osgoode stations on Line 1 downtown.
Ford’s government is proposing to use an unspecified alternate technology to build the line, creating a “truly unique transit artery spanning the city” that wouldn’t be “beholden” to the TTC’s “technologically outdated” subway.
City and TTC officials say that in talks about the upload, provincial officials have provided few details about the government’s plans for the projects, especially the relief line.
Green, the TTC spokesperson, said it “would be difficult to speculate on what portions, if any” of the work the city has paid for to date could be repurposed if the province alters plans for the projects.
“We would need to see the plans before making that assessment,” Green said.
The premier and other members of his government have claimed that the city and TTC have done little to advance new transit projects in recent years.
Green pushed back on that contention, saying “considerable time, professional effort and money have gone into work to date.”
Representatives of both Mayor John Tory and the city declined to say whether municipal officials would try to make repayment of sunk costs a condition for any upload agreement with the province.
Council has voted to register its position that the transit network should remain under city control, but decided to enter into discussions with the province after receiving legal advice the municipality has no legislative ability to stop the province from executing the upload. Talks are ongoing.
Lawvin Hadisi, a spokesperson for the mayor, said Tory was confident the city report expected Wednesday would “demonstrate that work is well underway and that there will be actual construction work underway soon.”
She said the mayor was “concerned that any proposed changes to our plan risks delaying already overdue transit expansion.”
Mike Winterburn, a spokesperson for Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, said “planning work that has been done to date will contribute to the upload plan,” but wouldn’t commit the province to paying any sunk costs incurred by the city if the upload is executed.
“We are working in good faith with the city to discuss a future partnership in delivering transit. Financial details will be announced at an appropriate time,” he said.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr