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City, province join for $12-billion transit makeover

Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty announced a $12.4-billion expansion of Toronto's transit system Thursday. The plan will include a light rail transit line across Eglinton and an expansion of the Sheppard subway line, both due to be complete by 2019

TORONTO, Ont. – Toronto’s transit system will officially be getting a massive multibillion-dollar facelift over the next ten years, in perhaps Mayor Rob Ford’s largest victory to date.

While the original idea of “Transit City” was scrapped under the Ford administration, the new $12.4-billion transit expansion plan will see the city receive more than 39 kilometres of new subway and light-rail track.

Ford announced the revamped transit plan in coordination with Premier Dalton McGuinty and the province Thursday morning, at the Wilson subway complex.

“Our new plan will provide a truly rapid transit system, it will make subways and underground rapid-transit the backbone of Toronto’s transit network,” Ford said.

The Ontario government will fund the cornerstone of the expansion, which is an $8.2-billion underground light-rail transit line, spanning across Eglinton Avenue from Black Creek Drive in the city’s west end, all the way to Kennedy Station in the east.

The light-rail transit line will then continue above ground to the Scarborough Town Centre, replacing the outdated Scarborough RT that currently serves the area.

Much of the area across Eglinton is currently served only by buses, which Ford told reporters are slow and limited. He used the example of a bus-trip from Kennedy station to Laird Drive to illustrate the benefits of the LRT.

“Our new plan will cut that travel-time in half,” Ford said of the 28-minute trip. “Cutting travel-time in half is a real benefit to transit users. Making transit rapid will make it the better choice for more riders.”

The city itself will be on the hook for the remaining portion of the transit makeover, a 13-kilometre extension of the Sheppard Avenue subway line.

Most of the $4.2-billion price-tag associated with the Sheppard extension will come from private-sector funding, according to the mayor. However, Ford is yet to hammer out the specific details of how the funds will be raised or allocated.

The subway extension will run from Downsview station to the Scarborough Town Centre, which Ford said will ease the burden of travel for many.

“They want them, because they don’t want to spend two hours a day on buses or streetcars,” Ford said of TTC riders. “They want rapid transit to get to work faster, and home to their families sooner.”

Both Ford and McGuinty stressed the importance of getting construction underway as soon as possible, and told reporters both the Eglinton LRT and the Sheppard subway extension should be complete by 2019.

McGuinty agreed the investment in transit is the best thing for the city.

“This is the biggest ever investment in Ontario on public transit. This transit line will be the spine of the Toronto and the regional systems,” McGuinty told reporters on Thursday.

The province will also be covering the cost of the 130 LRT transit cars for the Eglinton line, which are set to be built in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Ford received criticism for allegedly neglecting the Finch Avenue West area of the city, which had been promised a rapid transit line under David Miller’s transit city. He countered by promising the neighbourhood would have a subway within ten years.

“We will make major improvements to the bus service along Finch Avenue West until we can introduce rapid transit there as well,” Ford told reporters Thursday.

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