Tory unveils plan to speed up downtown relief line

By Antonella Artuso

Mayor John Tory wants to put the downtown relief line on the fast track, moving up $162 million in funding to accelerate construction by at least two years.

Factoring in the cost of congestion on the roads and on the transit system, this investment in an expedited relief line makes economic sense, Tory said Thursday.

“It will give one more reason to people as to why they don’t need to drive

their cars and why they can use public transit,” he said.

Local Councillor Paula Fletcher welcomed the new timeline but said she wants to ensure the project doesn’t have the same negative impact on the local area as the Eglinton Crosstown build did in mid-town.

“The traffic mitigation study can’t just be for the route — it has to be for the much wider area — and the other that I really feel strongly about is the business mitigation plan,” Fletcher said. “On Eglinton, the businesses are saying we’re being destroyed here by this project … people have given up their leases. It has been a catastrophe.”

The new plan for the downtown relief line calls for several things to happen at once, rather than the more traditional approach of taking one step at a time.

This means that the city will work on all of the needed encroachment agreements, initiate expropriations, prepare prequalification documents for borer machines, and start on relocation of utilities even as the new subway route is being designed.

TTC downtown relief line head Malcom MacKay said this approach could save money in the long run as it wraps up the construction period earlier.

“Shovels could be in the ground in 2020 to begin those early works,” MacKay said.

Tory admitted that even with these efforts, the subway won’t begin relieving the pressure on the busy Yonge line until 2029, but that’s still better than the previous target date of 2031.

The $162 million in capital funding would need to be approved by the TTC board and city council, but the mayor said he is throwing his support behind it.

“I’m committed to being the mayor that gets the relief line built,” he said.

The Doug Ford government has indicated that it intends to upload the TTC subway system, but Tory insisted the province shares the city’s determination to build the downtown line.

Funding for the entire project is expected to be part of the discussions around uploading.

Tory made the announcement Thursday at the Pape subway station, where 27,080 rides start and end each day.

Many of these riders transfer to the overcrowded Yonge line, a move that could be avoided by the downtown relief line, which would give them another route to the city core.

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