Improved transit options for Scarborough will come at a higher price than initially anticipated, according to new information revealed by city staff.
New estimates released to the City of Toronto Executive Committee earlier this week show that the cost to build the one-stop extension of the Bloor-Danforth Line to Scarborough Town Centre will be nearly 50 per cent higher than previously estimated, rising from $2 billion to $2.9 billion. Additional plans to construct a 17-stop LRT line along Eglinton Avenue that would serve the UTSC campus are also projected to increase in cost, from $1 billion to $1.6 billion.
A more in-depth analysis of the outlined construction zones revealed that the Scarborough subway extension will necessitate deeper tunneling in some spaces as well as additional concrete to account for the higher water table in the surrounding areas. This would take the total project costs to nearly $1 billion beyond the initial $3.56 billion budget allocated for Scarborough transit development options in earlier discussions in 2013.
Despite the increased costs, Mayor John Tory reiterated his support for both projects in a press conference on June 17, speaking of his commitment to the transit plans in Scarborough, where he said there has been “chronic underinvestment in public transportation.”
“I am committed to building this subway extension and the LRT extension along Eglinton and Kingston Road in a cost-efficient, expedient, and responsible manner,” he told reporters. “We should have expended extended the Bloor-Danforth subway line 10 years ago.”
It remains to be seen how the project will be funded. While Tory insisted that he would liaise with third-party transit experts to cut overall costs as effectively as possible, the estimated funding gap of nearly $1 billion has led to a number of city councilors voicing concerns about the feasibility of the chosen transit extension plans.
Noting practical and financial restraints, some believe that the City should choose to focus on a single transit project rather than both — either subway extension plans, developing LRT or other express transit options.
André Sorensen, associate professor of Urban Geography at UTSC, spoke to The Varsity and weighed in on the issue. “There is a clear logic to extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre both in terms of the larger transit network, and in terms of development potential at Scarborough Town Centre,” he said.
“But if we take into consideration a constrained budget, it is clear that spending a similar amount building an LRT network in Scarborough will have a much bigger positive impact. Our research showed that LRT would serve more people, create access to more jobs, and will open up more development opportunities than the proposed subway to Scarborough Town Centre.”
The city council is expected to vote on the final subway alignment at a meeting in July.