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John Tory and Josh Colle: Transit relief is on the way — can we speed it up?

Having a strong and robust transit system is vital to our residents, to our economy and to our competitiveness as a city and a province.

By next year, we will have a detailed design complete, a necessary step to kickstart procurement and construction of the Relief Line, writes John Tory and Josh Colle.

Torstar News Service

By next year, we will have a detailed design complete, a necessary step to kickstart procurement and construction of the Relief Line, writes John Tory and Josh Colle.

Over the last few days, there has been a lot of talk about the Relief Line and the need to get it built.

We're proud to say that work on the Relief Line is being done right now because we've taken action to get this project, along with Toronto's entire transit network plan, built.

Last May, City Council voted to move forward with the Relief Line. And consistent with the challenge of putting our money where our mouths are, we have fully funded the planning, design and engineering work that will get shovels in the ground to build the Relief Line.

The City of Toronto and the Ontario government have committed $100 million for the Relief Line south, and the province committed another $5 million to plan the expansion of the possible extension to the north.

By next year, we will have a detailed design complete, a necessary step to kickstart procurement and construction of the Relief Line.

We are also moving ahead with SmartTrack – this project will use existing rail lines that run right through our city and provide a degree of relief to the Yonge Street crowding problem much faster than any other transit project.

SmartTrack was always intended to be a service that can be introduced during the time the complex and lengthy relief line planning and construction is underway.

We need SmartTrack and the Relief Line.

No other transit project has slowed the Relief Line down. You know what has slowed the Relief Line down? The fact that no one did anything about it for years, no one spent 10 cents on the project until this administration secured the funding and got on with the work.

Yes, the Relief Line should have been built a long time ago – we agree – but no one did anything about it. We've changed that and we're going to keep pushing to do it faster.

The Premier recently appointed a new transportation minister, and we will be inviting Minister Kathryn McGarry to visit Toronto and observe the subway situation during rush hour so she can see the extent of the pressure our residents face.

We will also be asking her to explicitly commit to matching the federal government’s $4.8 billion investment in Toronto transit including the Relief Line through the second phase of infrastructure dollars, which will help build the line and the city’s other transit expansion priorities.

The federal government has made it clear that it expects provinces to match this investment by at least 33 per cent, but other provinces across the country have committed to 40 per cent, and it’s time for Ontario leaders to commit to doing the same for the people of Toronto.

In the next two weeks, we will be meeting with city staff to see if there are any possible options to speed up work on the Relief Line.

We will ask, as we have asked in the past, can you do this project faster? If that is possible, what do you need from City Council to do this work faster?

Toronto is growing fast – and we must keep up.

Having a strong and robust transit system is vital to our residents, to our economy and to our competitiveness as a city and a province.

We are committed to getting the work done that wasn't done in the past, we are committed to building the transit we need for the future, and we are committed to giving transit users real relief.

John Tory is the mayor of Toronto and Josh Colle is a Toronto city councillor.

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