Updated June 23, 2020 at 1:50 pm: The table of projects has been updated to include anticipated events, notably “financial close” dates, that were included in various project announcements by Infrastructure Ontario. Also Union Station Platform Expansion was described in the original version of this article as closing sooner than originally projected. This has been corrected to show a delay of roughly nine months.
Infrastructure Ontario recently released its Spring 2020 Update for P3 projects under its control including several Metrolinx projects. To date there have been three of these updates:
These updates include information on the project status, the type of procurement model, and the expected progress of each project through the procurement process. This provides “one stop shopping” compared to Metrolinx’ own site. As a convenience to readers, I have consolidated the three updates as they relate to transit projects to allow easy comparison between versions.
Some projects have evolved since the first version, and in particular the delivery dates for a few projects have moved further into the future. The “financial close” dates for some projects, in effect the point at which a contract is signed and real work can begin, has moved beyond the date of the next Provincial election. Whatever government is in power after summer 2022 will have a final say on whether these projects go ahead.
The Ontario Line was previously reported as a single project with a price tag of over $10 billion. In the Fall 2019 update, the intent was to have the financial close in Winter/Spring 2022 ahead of the election. In the Winter 2020 update, this changed to Spring 2022.
In the Spring 2020 update, the project has been split into separate parts to reflect industry feedback about the original scope.
- GO Corridor from Don River to Gerrard
- South Tunnels, Civil Works and Stations CNE to Don River
- Rolling Stock, System Operations & Maintenance
- North Tunnels, Civil Works and Stations
The GO corridor work will be done as a conventional procurement by Metrolinx and will be bundled with upgrades to GO Transit trackage.
The financial close for items 2 and 3 above is now Fall 2022, and for item 4 it is Fall 2023.
This means that an actual sign-on-the-dotted-line commitment to the project will not be within the current government’s mandate. Even the so-called “early works” comprising the southern portion of the route from Exhibition to the Don River is not scheduled to close until Fall 2022. The northern portion, from Gerrard to Eglinton will close in Fall 2023. This contract is being held back pending results for the south contract to determine the industry’s appetite for the work.
The southern portion, with a long tunnel through downtown and stations in congested street locations would start first. However, the line cannot actually open without the northern portion because this provides the link to the maintenance facility which is included as part of item 3 above although the actual access connection would be built as part of item 4.
An issue linking all of these projects is the choice of technology which, in turn drives decisions such as tunnel and station sizes, power supply, signalling and maintenance facility design. When the Ontario Line was a single project, Metrolinx could say that this choice was up to the bidders, but now there must be some co-ordination to ensure that what is built can actually be used to operate the selected technology. It is hardly a secret that Metrolinx is promoting a SkyTrain like technology, although which propulsion scheme (LIM vs rotary motors) is not clear. There are well-known problems with LIMs and the power pickup technology used on the SRT, and this would also be a consideration for the outdoor portions of the Ontario Line.
Scarborough Subway Extension
Like the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Extension has been split into two pieces. The first will be the tunnel contract from Kennedy Station to McCowan. This is now in the procurement phase, and financial close is projected for Spring 2021.
The remainder of the project previously had a projected closing date of “Winter/Spring 2023”, but this is now just “2023”. With the tunnel hived off into a separate contract, it is reasonable that the remainder would have a later start date because the tunnel is a key component that must be in place first.
Metrolinx recently published a Preliminary Business Case for this extension. It includes the following text:
Kennedy Station Pocket Track/Transition Section
The Kennedy transition section extends roughly 550 metres from the east side of the GO Transit Stouffville rail corridor to Commonwealth Avenue and will include special track work and a pocket track to enable every second subway train to short turn to suit ridership demand and minimize fleet requirements, as well as lower operating costs. [p 24]
This turnback has been an on-again, off-again part of the project but it is now clearly included as a cost saving measure. With only every second train running to Sheppard/McCowan, the fleet required (as well as storage) would be within the system’s current capacity. This ties in with the timing of the T1 fleet replacement on Line 2 as there are enough T1s to run alternate, but not full service to Sheppard. This would be similar to the arrangement now used on the TYSSE where only half of the AM peak service runs north of Glencairn Station to Vaughan.
Richmond Hill Subway Extension
The Ontario government recently signed an agreement with York Region for the extension of the Yonge line from Finch to Richmond Hill. The status of this project is unchanged with an RFQ to be issued in Fall 2021, an RFP in Spring 2022 and financial close in Fall 2023.
Sheppard East Subway Extension
This project remains in the planning phase.
The main part of the Crosstown project is already under construction and, therefore, it does not appear in the IO project list.
On the proposed western extension, the tunnel portion has become a separate contract as with the Scarborough extension. It is now in the RFQ stage with the intent of the RFP issuing in Summer 2020 and financial close in Spring 2021. The fact that this work is already “in market” shows that the government has no intention of entertaining any option for surface operations through much of Etobicoke.
There is no date even for an RFQ let alone actual construction of the extension.
The Finch West LRT is under construction and does not appear in the IO list.
The Hurontario project had its financial close in October 2019, and it is now under construction.
The Hamilton project was intended to close in October 2020, but the project was iced by Queen’s Park. A review of alternative options is underway thanks to strong objection from Hamilton about the provincial decision and mis-characterization of the project’s eventual cost.
GO Transit Projects
Union Station Platform Expansion (Updated)
The RFP for this project was issued in February 2020, and financial close is expected in Fall 2021,
an improvement from later than the originally projected Winter 2021.
There is an oddity in the announcement of the RFP being issued where IO claims that:
A successful bidder is expected to be announced in summer 2020.
This is clearly impossible for an RFP that has only just been issued and especially considering that their own Winter 2020 update shows a Fall 2021 date for the financial close.
Lake Shore East-Central Corridor (Updated)
There was an RFP for this project in April 2018, but the financial close date remains “TBD”. When this RFP was issued, IO claimed:
A successful proponent is expected to be announced in winter 2018.
Lake Shore East-West Corridor (Updated)
There was an RFQ for this project in February 2018, but no RFP has been issued nor is there a projected financial close date. When this project was announced, IO claimed:
A request for proposals is expected to be released in spring 2019.
Lake Shore West Corridor (Updated)
An RFQ was issued for this project in December 2017, and an RFP in April 2018. With the Spring 2020 update, the financial close has changed from “TBD” to “Winter 2021”. When the project was announced, IO claimed:
A successful proponent is expected to be announced in early 2019.
Milton Corridor (Updated)
An RFQ was issued for this project in November 2017, and an RFP in April 2018. With the Spring 2020 update, the financial close has changed from “TBD” to “Winter 2021”. When the project was announced, IO claimed:
IO and Metrolinx will evaluate the proposals, select a preferred proponent and award a final contract, anticipated to be announced in winter 2019.
ONCorr Project: GO Network Expansion
This is a very large project including future operation of GO Transit and possible changes in the propulsion technology. An RFQ was issued in March 2018 with an RFP in May 2019. In the Spring 2020 update, the financial closing date changed from “2021” to “2022”.
In the Spring 2020 update, SmartTrack showed up as a project in the planning stage. A big challenge for Metrolinx and Toronto is that Ontario hopes to gain developer contributions to station costs, but is unclear how much or if such contributions might be. Also, we have not seen any definitive costs for ST stations. Whether Toronto can still afford John Tory’s signature plan remains to be seen.
The Infrastructure Ontario updates do not deal with financing except to the point of describing which type of project delivery has been selected, if any. Most projects include financing by the entity that builds/delivers them (that is the “F” in the acronyms for project delivery).
However, it is not clear how contributions from other potential partners would be handled. These include:
The Federal government: Ontario would like the Feds to contribute 40% of the signature transit projects, and the province has complained that the Feds have not stepped up with their presumed share. For their part, the Feds complain that detailed designs and business cases do not exist for some projects, much less a hard estimate of the cost. “40% of what” is a valid question.
Although Ontario may choose to string out its payments in the indefinite future with financing from the private partner, this is not necessarily the position another government might take. For example, it could be cheaper for the Feds to borrow on their own account and simply pay their share up front. The catch, of course, is that the payment would be based on 40% of the then-current cost estimate, not including future overruns or unexpected inflation.
Although we hear about this less often, Ontario would also like Toronto (or appropriate municipalities) to chip in 20% of projects within their territories. It is unclear where Toronto would find their “share” in the currently strained budget.
The danger with having a large collection of P3s as an integral part of the transit system is that paying the bills will be unavoidable and will crowd out spending on other projects and portfolios. As the shape of the post-pandemic economy emerges and we get a better sense of the resources that each government will have available, we may discover just how rich all of the transit promises were, and may suffer indigestion attempting to sustain them all.