Updated April 28, 2015 at 8:20 am:
The decision to push construction of the Sheppard LRT out to the 2020s was taken quite recently as shown by two separate reports.
In today’s Globe & Mail, Oliver Moore reports:
According to Mr. Del Duca, the delay on Sheppard was because of the difficulty of trying to do too many big projects at once. “The plan right now is to have the procurement begin for the Sheppard East LRT after we complete the Finch West LRT,” he said.
There was no firm timeline available for the Sheppard line. If it starts on its new schedule and takes about as long as Finch to build, it should be ready some time after 2025.
This timeline is sharply at odds with the information given to a reporter in the provincial budget lock-up on Thursday. The government’s position then – given on background and not for attribution, under the rules of the lock-up – was that the Sheppard line would open about a year after Finch. Mr. Del Duca’s spokesman did not return a message Monday seeking clarification of what had changed.
On April 27, over an hour after the LRT announcement, one of my readers, seeking clarification from Metrolinx received the following email:
From: Metrolinx Customer Relations <email@example.com>
Date: April 27, 2015 at 10:43:26 AM EDT
Thank you for contacting us about the status of the Sheppard East LRT.
The Sheppard East LRT is fully funded and approved. The Sheppard East LRT underpass construction at Agincourt GO Station has been completed.
Preliminary design and engineering work will be happening over the next few years. Construction is expected to begin in 2017 and be completed by 2021.
I appreciate you taking the time to contact us.
[x] Customer Service Representative
GO Transit, A Division of Metrolinx
One wonders just what triggered a change so last-minute that it was not communicated to Metrolinx’ own “communications” team. The Minister claims that the delay is because there is only so much construction work that can be undertaken concurrently, but this seems to have more to do with avoiding a politically difficult decision.
A much more honest position would be to say simply that “we’re waiting for the results of various studies now underway on transit for Scarborough”, but leadership, or even a bit of common sense on anything transit-related in that part of town seems to escape the Liberals at Queen’s Park.
Original article from April 27 at 12:11 pm:
The Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, gathered with other politicians including Mayor Tory to announce that construction of the Finch West LRT would proceed starting in 2016 with an in-service date of 2021. The line, for which an approved EA has been in place since 2010, will run from Finch West Station at Keele to Humber College, a distance of 11km. An EA for the proposed carhouse will begin soon. The connection at Finch West will be in a short tunnel section, but otherwise the line will run at grade.
The project will be paid for 100% by the Province of Ontario.
The Sheppard East LRT’s status is less clear. According to Del Duca, that project won’t get underway until after Finch West opens, and this puts an actual go/nogo decision out beyond the next municipal and provincial elections. Actual service on Sheppard is at least a decade away.
The Sheppard line’s status is intimately linked to the proposed Scarborough Subway Extension (SSE), the GO/RER and SmartTrack plans, and any possible resurrection of the Scarborough LRT. That political morass cannot begin to be sorted out until there is better supporting information on project costs, alignments and potential ridership for various network configurations.
Toronto Council is, today, in favour of the SSE, but this support could falter if there is a significant change in the scope of the subway proposal including options to shift the line further east away from SmartTrack, or to link up an SSE with the Sheppard Subway. The City’s financial position and ability to undertake very large capital projects is quite different now than when the SSE and its 1.6% property tax hike were approved. There are very large costs associated with both the Gardiner Expressway project and with the maintenance backlog at Toronto Community Housing (TCHC).
For the rest of 2015, we are likely to see much huffing and puffing by LRT opponents, and a big debate once the studies now underway are published. The SmartTrack plan itself requires major revision, notably for the Eglinton West branch, but this could provide an opportunity to “save” money by ditching the impractical underground ST route from Mount Dennis to the Airport. The cost of SmartTrack would be a lot lower if it stayed in the existing rail corridors, and this could give political headroom for the Eglinton Crosstown’s westward extension.
Meanwhile there are smaller but no less deserving projects such as waterfront transit and acceleration of the bus fleet’s expansion to provide more service on that vital part of the transit network.