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Subway plans on track, officials say

THE FUTURE path of the Spadina subway extension. Work is expected to begin soon. Illustration by Philip Alves and Shadi Raoufi/Vaughan Today

Transport Canada and TTC officials aren’t quite sure what all the hubbub is about.

Though the two organizations insist things on the Spadina subway extension are rolling along nicely, they are each being blamed by some political observers for an apparent lack of progress.

Close to $700 million in federal funding for the Spadina extension from Downsview station through York University to the Vaughan Corporate Centre was announced in March 2007. The money would be made available on a reimbursement basis for portions of the project that had been awarded through tendered bids.

“There’s no stalling approach on our side,” Transport Canada spokesperson Patrick Charette said last Tuesday. “We’re committed to contributing to the project — $697 million — and now we’re working with both the TTC and the city of Toronto on making it happen.”

Andy Bertolo, the TTC’s chief project manager on the Spadina extension, said preliminary work, including renting office space and hiring outside consultants, has been funded by all of the subway’s partners.

What’s left, he said, is for all the funding partners to sign a contribution agreement.

“That’s also well in hand, we understand, and expect it to be executed in the next few months,” Bertolo said last Tuesday. “With that, we will have full funding and project approval to take us to the end.

“The project is off and running as of (March).”

But some subway trainspotters in the political arena aren’t convinced.

The sticking point is the condition the federal government has placed on its share of the funding that states only tendered contracts will be reimbursed.

“The TTC is refusing to tender its bids,” said Peter Kent, Thornhill’s federal Conservative candidate. “The federal government is insisting that the efficient way to spend taxpayers’ dollars is to tender bids for the work.

“So it’s the TTC which is effectively blocking the beginning of construction.”

The TTC will not tender bids for some parts of the project, including legal, staff and property costs, Bertolo said. Those costs, he added, are expected to account for less than 10 percent of the total.

“Certain project costs, including the in-house stuff, are not eligible for funding under the federal funding program’s parameters, that’s for sure,” Charette said. “Should Toronto go the in-house route, we can then redirect some of the money to other parts of the project.

“I’m told this is really minor.”

Councillor Sandra Yeung Racco, former chair of the Spadina York Subway Extension Committee, is pleased with the progress already made, which includes the seven-year, $100-million project management services contract awarded to Spadina Link Project Managers in March.

“This is a good step,” Racco said last Tuesday. “I want the public to also get behind and say: ‘Come on! We need this, so let’s move this forward.’ ”

But, she said, greater progress could be made if the federal funds were released without the reimbursement condition attached.

“If there was an election, let’s say the party changes, and for whatever reason another party comes along and says, ‘No, we’re not going to do it anymore’, we’re stuck,” Racco said. “Why can’t they just … give us the money, put it into the bank so we can actually do it, just like the province.

“I hate to say it, but I think a lot has to do with the politics.”

The political sniping comes as no surprise, Bertolo said, but it seems not to have soured the work being done.

“The will seems to be there to finalize and cross the final T’s and dot the final I’s and get it off the ground in the next few months.”

Vaughan Today
Online: May 11, 2008 [link]