Premier Doug Ford’s provincial government unveiled its nearly $30-billion transit expansion plan — including a new 15-kilometre “Ontario Line” stretching from Ontario Place to the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto.
Meant to replace the concept of a Downtown Relief Line to ease what Ford calls the “dangerous congestion” on the city’s subway network, the proposed line will be double the length proposed by the city at a cost of nearly $11 billion.
“We’re making the largest investment in new subways in Canadian history,” Ford told reporters on Wednesday.
The premier and Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek made the announcement at GO Transit’s Willowbrook maintenance facility in south Etobicoke.
The Ontario Line, provincial officials say, will be a “free-standing artery” — independent of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) — in order to boost “current, proven and much less costly” technology.
“The TTC are great operators. They’re just not experts in building,” Yurek said.
It will be a light rail line that’s mostly underground with the potential for an elevated track along certain portions of the route, like crossing over the Don River. The project is slated to be finished by 2029, or two years earlier, and will include the possibility of driverless trains.
And it’s just one of the Ford government’s four priority projects, along with extending the Yongesubway line north to Richmond Hill, expanding the Eglinton West LRT west, and building a three-stop Scarborough subway extension.
These four projects alone could carry a price tag of $26.7 billion. Here’s the cost breakdown:
- Ontario Line (formerly the Downtown Relief Line): $10.9 billion.
- Scarborough subway: $5.5 billion.
- Yonge extension to Richmond Hill: $5.6 billion.
- Eglinton West extension: $4.7 billion.
The province, meanwhile, has committed to spending $11.2 billion — more than one third of the total cost — on the projects.
That leaves the federal government and the city on the hook for more than $17 billion.
With the province also changing course on several in-motion projects — including shifting from Toronto’s approved one-stop Scarborough subway to three stops — critics have raised concerns about potential cost overruns, construction delays and wasting some of the $224 million already spent on planning and design.
“This premier’s throwing out all the plans, hundreds of millions of dollars in plans, to start from square one again, so all the planning has to start all over again,” NDP leader Andrea Horwathsaid at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
But Ford and Yurek maintain they can “overcome” potential issues typically caused by red tape.
The current TTC subway system “isn’t working for the riders,” Yurek said, pointing to issues of overcrowding and delays in expansion of the subway network.
“Our government will take responsibility for subway infrastructure, while the TTC can focus on day-to-day operations,” he said on Wednesday.
“We can do things the city can’t. We can prioritize, make decisions, and perhaps most importantly, finance these projects.”
Tory said Tuesday he doesn’t know what’s being unveiled and won’t be attending.
“What I’m going to do now is await the announcement, see what it says … then we’ll go from there,” Tory told a news conference.
If the province declares that the city must bear some of the costs of the new construction but will not own the subway lines, Tory said, “obviously that’s something we’ll want to discuss.”
The announcement is coming even though city and provincial officials are still in negotiations about the province’s plan to “upload” the construction and maintenance of Toronto’s subway network. The province wants to own the lines but leave the city and TTC to operate the subway.
“After tomorrow’s announcement, we’ll continue with our conversations with Mayor Tory and the city and move forward with this upload,” Yurek told reporters at Queen’s Park on Tuesday.
“Everything’s up for negotiation, but we have a plan that I think people in Toronto are going to be excited about.”