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Transit plans for Scarborough to cost $1 billion more than expected

Updated cost estimates for a modified subway and LRT plan leave city $1 billion short on funding.

Updated cost estimates for a modified subway and LRT plan leave city $1 billion short on funding.

Torstar News Service

Updated cost estimates for a modified subway and LRT plan leave city $1 billion short on funding.

A one-stop subway extension to Scarborough is now estimated to cost $2.9 billion — part of a plan that leaves the city $1 billion short on funding.

After Mayor John Tory and chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat promised a pared-down subway that would allow for the revival of an LRT line along Eglinton Ave. East, that plan for Scarborough transit now requires $1 billion more in funding than promised, the Star has confirmed. The LRT line is now estimated to cost $1.6 billion.

Where that funding could be found is unclear.

As the city faces significant budget pressures next year, with $29 billion in approved but completely unfunded capital projects already on the books, those justifying the controversial subway face significant challenges with the added costs.

Tory, TTC chair Josh Colle and Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker are expected to speak to reporters at 10:45 a.m.

After council scrapped plans for a seven-stop LRT, a $1.48 billion cost that was fully-funded by the province, a slim majority of councillors backed a three-stop subway from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Ave. at an estimated cost of $3.56 billion.

But in January, with critics saying the cost of the subway was not warranted when an LRT would better serve transit needs in the area, city officials announced a revamped plan. The “express subway,” as it has been described by supporters, would cut costs by adding just a single stop at the Scarborough Town Centre on the on the Bloor-Danforth line.

Savings of at least $1 billion from fewer stations and tunnelling, Keesmaat said, would allow the city to build an 18-stop LRT along Eglinton Ave. East — modified from an original light-rail plan launched under former mayor David Miller.

With Tory promising more transit for the same money, the political compromise was hailed a vast improvement to the three-stop plan. But questions about a six-kilometre stretch of tunnel for an extra stop costing more than $2 billion have persisted.

“We’ve always known a seven-stop LRT, that would run through its own corridor and completely separated from traffic, would be far cheaper than a subway extension in Scarborough and serve many more people,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, who has been most vocal about those concerns, on Friday morning.

“City Hall has a choice to make. It can move forward now with a shovel-ready Scarborough LRT plan, be honest with residents and be responsible with their tax dollars or do the complete opposite.”

An updated report on future transit plans, including the Scarborough subway, will be released early next week. That report is expected to include a cost-benefit analysis from a third-party consultant.

When council was given the $3.56 billion estimate from the city, little study had been done on the possible alignments and construction issues of building a subway in Scarborough.

Costs have increased after additional technical work revealed “technical complications,” according to information provided by the mayor's office, meaning tunnelling would need to be deeper than expected in some areas and stations would need to 45 to 95 per cent deeper than estimated.

The new $4.5 billion estimate for the subway and LRT is just the cost to build the lines. It does not include the cost to operate or maintain them. Under the earlier plan to build a seven-stop LRT, the province committed to paying both operating and maintenance costs indefinitely.

The city confirmed this week that a master agreement with the province to build the seven-stop LRT remains signed. In order to build the subway, the agreement will have to be modified.

“It requires amendment which will be done at the appropriate juncture, pending the outcome of council decisions,” said spokesperson Wynna Brown in an email.

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