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MP asked feds for Yonge subway money

It’s all over but the waiting.

Thornhill MP Peter Kent, a proponent of extending the Yonge subway into Richmond Hill, submitted the project as worthy of some of the billions in infrastructure dollars pledged in last month’s federal budget.

The problem for subway trainspotters north of Steeles Ave. now, however, is competition for those dollars from across the country.

“The Finance Ministry and the Transport Ministry — because (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities) John Baird is Dr. Infrastructure — have been prioritizing those projects which can be addressed quickest,” Kent said speaking to reporters at the offices of Vaughan Today and its sister publications recently. “Those will be rolled out in the next few weeks.

“The extension of the Yonge St. subway, which is a personal project of mine, is on the list. It’s not on the top of the list because the shovels can’t quite go into the ground, but it’s on the list for sure.”

The 6.5-kilometre Yonge extension plan is expected to cost up to $2.5 billion and could be ready for passengers in 2016. Six subway stations are planned: at Cummer Ave., Steeles Ave., Clark Ave., Royal Orchard Blvd., Longbridge Rd. and Richmond Hill Centre, with 1,900 parking spaces in the hydro corridor at Longbridge.

Further complicating things for Yonge extension boosters, Toronto councillors recently agreed to ask Metrolinx to bump the proposed Downtown Relief Line up its list of priorities.

The relief subway line would travel through the downtown core from roughly Pape Station on the Bloor-Danforth line in the east, possibly reconnecting with the Bloor-Danforth line in the west end.

“What has really bumped this up to a possible higher priority is the issue of the Yonge line,” Toronto city councillor and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone said recently. “If you’re going to extend (it), you’re going to have a lot more passengers and that will put it over capacity earlier.”

Both lines could be built simultaneously if enough money was made available, Giambrone suggested, but Toronto’s request to Metrolinx stated the relief line should be built first.

A spokesperson for Metrolinx said Tuesday the regional transit authority hasn’t received anything formal from Toronto but it is aware of the request.

“I won’t get into bickering between levels of government, but the federal government and the TTC aren’t always in step with the needs of the broader GTA,” Kent said. “There may be some healthy disagreement but I think that in the end it’s going to be all of our responsibility to come up with reasonable solutions, cost-effective solutions.

“There will be political head banging but one would hope that it’s restrained and productive rather than damaging.”

— with files from Karolyn Coorsh

Vaughan Today
In print: February 27, 2009, page 4
Online: March 1, 2009 [link]