Ontario Funds 100% of the Hurontario-Main LRT

The Ontario government has announced that it will fund 100% of the proposed Hurontario-Main LRT line, although they would happily receive contributions from other partners such as the Federal government should it be so inclined.

If the Hurontario-Main project proceeds as expected, detailed design will get underway soon, construction will begin in 2018, and revenue service would start in 2022. Whether thereĀ  might be staging options for the route would likely come out of the detailed design work. The line has its challenges and intriguing design choices including side-of-the-road running and mixed streetcar-like operation where road space is scarce. Will the province champion this project over local objections, or does this line face years of carping about the “St. Clair disaster” and other fictional effects of LRT?

The Transit Project Assessment for this route was approved in August 2014, but the debate remained on who would pay the estimated $1.6-billion cost. Ontario is already funding 100% of the Eglinton-Crosstown project in Toronto, and a chorus of “me too” understandably arose in Mississauga and Brampton.

A provincial commitment at this level raises obvious questions about and comparisons to the stillborn Toronto projects on Sheppard, Finch and the Scarborough RT replacement. These lines are all but dead thanks to a lack of provincial leadership on LRT not to mention the vote-buying embrace of the Scarborough subway option. If that subway proves too rich for Toronto (or for an increased provincial contribution), the LRT scheme might reappear, but that’s a very long shot. As for Finch West, as an isolated route it could have trouble finding a political market unless it is extended beyond the originally proposed Humber College terminal.

Another obvious question is the future of LRT proposals elsewhere that have only partial provincial funding, or no money at all. Has 100% provincial funding become the new standard and goal for transit expansion in the GTHA? How will this affect planning for other routes, not to mention the substantial demands for better local transit operations to feed expanding regional networks? Queen’s Park still appears to be making up policy as it goes along, and refusing to engage in the larger question of how all of the transit we need will be paid for.