Feds invest $12B in Ontario public transit projects in GTHA

TORONTO — Ontario and the federal government have struck an agreement that will see Ottawa kick in $12 billion to help build several transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over the next decade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that the federal government will help fund four subway projects in the Greater Toronto Area and one rapid-transit project in Hamilton.

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"This $12 billion in funding means people will get where they need to go faster, all with tens of thousands fewer cars on the road daily," he said.

The Ontario Line project in Toronto will bring rapid transit from Exhibition Place, through downtown, to the Ontario Science Centre.

The Eglinton Crosstown West extension will create a rapid transit line along Eglinton Avenue between Scarborough, in Toronto's east end, and Mississauga, Ont.

The third and fourth transit projects in the GTA are the Yonge Street North Subway extension and the Scarborough Subway extension.

In Hamilton, Trudeau said the federal government will support a rapid-transit line that will go from McMaster University, through downtown, to Eastgate Centennial Park in Stoney Creek.

Later Tuesday, the federal and provincial governments said $10.7 billion of the total funding from Ottawa would be going toward the four GTA projects while further information on the Hamilton project would be detailed Thursday.

The GTA projects will create over 16,000 jobs during the construction period, the governments said. By 2041, the projects are expected to have a total daily ridership of over 620,000 with almost 400,000 people within walking distance of a new transit station, they said.

The projects were first announced in April 2019, when Premier Doug Ford unveiled a $28.5-billion transit plan for the GTA.

Ontario has committed $17 billion to the projects but Ford asked for federal and municipal funding contributions for the rest of the plan. He vowed, however, to go it alone if necessary.

Federal infrastructure minister Catherine McKenna said Tuesday that after six months of talks, Ottawa and the province reached an agreement that will see Ottawa contribute 40 per cent of the funding.

McKenna said all of the projects will help Canada restart its economy post-pandemic by putting thousands of people to work while tackling overcrowding in the transit system.

"Sometimes in rush hour, people have to wait for two or three trains to go by before they can even get on," she said.

"This major investment will help not only deal with that, but it also creates tens of thousands of good jobs and will help gridlock traffic off the road and it will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney acknowledged that there have been questions about whether the projects would even be built and said the agreement shows they are moving forward.

"By working together, the governments of Canada and Ontario have sent a clear message that we will take decisive action to champion the public infrastructure projects that support the health and growth of our local communities," she said.

All of the projects are on track to open between 2029 and 2031, Mulroney said.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said it had been difficult to get to a place where the latest agreement could be announced but stressed that the time for delay on building transit was over.

"We've taken too much time off over the years," he said. "It doesn't matter who we point fingers at it ...we had to just get on with actually building the transit."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2021.

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