News / Toronto

Rob Ford tells TTC chief subway the only way for Scarborough

Mayor Rob Ford says he is frustrated with Andy Byford after the transit CEO said the TTC is trying to confine current work on the Scarborough subway project to tasks that could be applied either to a subway or LRT.

“I support Mr. Byford, but I’m pretty frustrated with him right now,” Ford said. “If he’s going in a different direction than what council approved, I think we’ve got a problem.”

Byford’s comments Wednesday confirmed what the civic election campaign has already made clear: Even though council has approved a subway, the transit Scarborough gets depends on whether the next mayor and council have a change of heart and revert to the original LRT plan.

Mayoral candidates Olivia Chow and David Soknacki have said they would support an above-ground LRT, with more stops at a lower cost. John Tory and Karen Stintz both say they would stick with the subway that council approved last year.

Byford says he’s doing his best to spend taxpayers’ money wisely.

“We are very clear we are working to council’s direction, which, until further notice, is to build a subway … But given that there is a potential for the plan to change, we are doing work that would apply to either one at the moment,” he said.

“We are trying to avoid redundant work,” said Byford.

Although he said political uncertainty would not delay a replacement for the aged Scarborough RT, Byford admitted there is a finite amount of work that can be done before the job becomes technology-specific.

The TTC has hired a project manager and is assembling a team, he said. “Whether you build an LRT or you build a subway, you need to have worked through all the engineering considerations, the exact alignments, the design, the consultation processes. All that work needs to be done regardless of the mode.”

Ford waved a letter at reporters he said was from the federal government, promising $660 million toward the estimated $3.5 billion cost of the Scarborough subway. He also touted plans to use a property tax increase of a quarter of one per cent to build subways instead of LRTs on Sheppard and Finch, as well as a downtown relief subway. He suggested public-private partnerships and the air rights over stations would also help pay for more subway lines.

A tax increase the size Ford is suggesting would raise only about $6 million annually. A kilometre of subway costs about $300 million.

Metrolinx confirmed that the province has not yet signed an amended agreement with the city since council switched its approval from an LRT to a subway.

“However, Metrolinx has cancelled the SRT/Sheppard combined maintenance and storage facility and provided the city with sunk costs associated with cancelling the Scarborough LRT,” said spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.

Toronto’s bill for cancelling the LRT is $80 million so far, she said. It’s not known when an agreement might be signed.

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