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Critics slam reports of Doug Ford’s changes to Toronto relief line plan

Critics are slamming Premier Doug Ford’s transit plan, after reports that his government’s new vision for a downtown relief line could be significantly different from the line the city already approved.

Reports from the Toronto Star reveal the province’s vision for a subway relief line — dubbed the Ontario Line — would follow less than three kilometres of the city’s proposed 7.4-kilometre path, among other changes.

“It’s a mess,” said Brad Bradford, TTC board member and city councillor for Beaches-East York. He said the province’s vision will “throw out” years of work and money and essentially create a different plan.

In April, Ford announced the new 15-kilometre Ontario Line meant to replace the city’s proposed downtown relief subway line.

A large section of the Ontario Line was supposed to follow the alignment of the city’s relief line, Bradford said, and the plan could build on work that was already completed by the city and TTC.

But Bradford said the province will be using “less than half” of the work done to date, based on reports of a confidential initial business case obtained by the Star.

Ford previously said the province’s planned line would be double the length and could be completed faster than the city’s plan, as early as 2027.

The city has already spent years and tens of millions of dollars working on a relief line plan, and wanted to start construction in 2020, Bradford said.

But the province’s relief line “really represents a different plan,” Bradford said, with different stations, design changes and different technology.

He said the 2027 timeline seems unrealistic.

Plan will be publicly available ‘soon,’ ministry says

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said Monday on Twitter that the business case for the line has been shared with city officials.

Mulroney was not available for an interview with CBC News. A spokesperson for the minister said the initial business case “will be shared and publicly available soon.”

“The document will be the basis of public consultations this fall,” Barbara Mottram, the minister’s director of communications, said in an email.

Mayor John Tory said Tuesday he is waiting for an analysis of the government’s business case from city officials before passing opinion. However, Tory said his priority is that there is “no delay” in building the transit project.

“Any decision on Toronto’s subway system needs to be in the best interests of the people of our city,” said a statement from the mayor’s office, following a pre-scheduled meeting between Tory and Mulroney Tuesday afternoon.

Ford’s government has previously said the new plan would cost $10.9 billion.

Staff report back in October

TTC and city staff are reviewing the business case and will report to council in October, the mayor’s office said.

Among the changes, the Star also reports that the line would be built above ground for up to six kilometres, which would require using different trains than TTC subways.

NDP transit critic Jessica Bell called reports of the new proposal “disturbing” and demanded Ford publicly release his detailed plans.

“The City of Toronto has spent years into coming up with a reasonable plan,” Bell said. “They were ready to start construction next year. And now Doug Ford has thrown that all away to start again.”

Adam Vaughan, MP for Spadina-Fort York, also criticized the plan on Twitter, saying the lines “cannot be seriously costed.”

Bell said she’s skeptical the province can build double the track with less money in less time.

The city was previously hoping to have shovels in the ground by 2020, with a completion date of 2029, Bradford said.

“The proposed changes are just going to set us back even further,” said Bradford, who criticized the government for bringing ideas forward without consultation

The city’s previous plan had been approved by all levels of government, he said, with the transit project assessment and environmental assessments already done.

“Our staff, TTC staff have done a ton of work on this,” said Bradford, urging government to “park the egos” and stop playing politics.

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