TORONTO, Ont. – The head of the TTC says the commission will apply for funding that the federal government announced in the 2013 budget to help build a downtown relief line (DRL), as well as for capital improvements.
The Economic Action Plan is making $47-billion in new funding available under the Building Canada plan as well as $32.2 billion under the Community Improvement Fund, which includes an indexed gas tax.
Municipalities will have to apply for the money under those funds, which would be available in 2014.
”This is good news for transit and I’m excited about the opportunities that the federal government has made available to us,” TTC chair Karen Stintz told reporters after the budget was tabled Thursday afternoon.
Stintz said that the TTC has a transit plan, it’s identified the city’s transit priorities and that “we know the downtown relief line is a significant priority for the city. So my expectation is that would be the first kind of infrastructure project we’d make (an) application for.”
Mayor Rob Ford, a proponent of subways, also welcomed the funding announcement.
“I’m happy to see that many of Toronto’s ideas are reflected in the budget and I look forward to working with the federal government to ensure Toronto benefits fully from these funding commitments,” Ford said in a release.
The TTC has said the DRL between St. Andrew and Pape stations would take priority over extending the Yonge subway line north to Richmond Hill.
“We can look to the building infrastructure fund to pay for new investment in transit but I think the gas tax really is about maintaining a state of good repair that will increase over time as our system expands,” she said.
The cost of building the DRL varies, but it would be in the billions, Stintz said. She estimated if it was built only from Yonge to Pape, it would be $2 billion at least.
Stintz said that the funds would not negate the need for taxes or other revenue-generating tools to help pay for new transit projects. She said the $47-billion fund is for all of Canada, and Metrolinx’s 25-year Big Move transit plan for Toronto and Hamilton is estimated to cost $50 billion.
“So I think it’ll be a contribution to the [Big Move] plan but it won’t fund it on its own,” she said.
“We need to get the most we can because the Toronto region is the economic engine of the nation,” Stintz said. “We know we’re not competitive right now because of the congestion.”
The Toronto Region Board of Trade, which earlier this week recommended several tax tools including sales/gas taxes and road tolls to help pay for new regional transit projects, has said that gridlock is costing the economy $6 billion a year and that the figure could reach $15 billion a year by 2031.
Stintz also said the infrastructure fund allows for highway improvements so the crumbling Gardiner Expressway, parts of which city engineers have said would reach its end of life in six years also “would certainly be my priority.”