Toronto City Council voted to approve the Carlaw alignment for the southern section of the Yonge relief line, but not before a lot of debate that proved councillors still don’t understand the necessity of this incredibly important project.
Councillors threatened to hold off this project if their transit project of preference, made generalized statements about how little relief the “relief line” will have in their riding, and argued about the price tag attached.
As the province of Ontario moves forward with high-speed rail connecting Windsor to Toronto and a transit line that connects northern 905-ers to Finch, there has been little provincial support offered for the relief line.
The relief line is necessary if the city of Toronto wants to relieve congestion and unlock gridlock on major roads. It becomes even more necessary as these other transit lines are built to connect to the already overcrowded Line 1.
City staff have already said that Line 1 will be at capacity by 2031. At this moment, if councillors, staff, and the province keep bickering, it doesn’t seem like the relief line will be built by then. In fact, Toronto Mayor John Tory sent a letter to Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford asking for creative solutions to address short-term subway capacity issues.
“I want to make sure we are doing everything we can now to make the ride better for riders,” Tory wrote.
Meanwhile, the provincial government is still refusing to contribute to the relief line. In a statement released as a response to Tory’s press conference Wednesday morning, Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, released a statement saying they have already pledged $150 million towards the planning of the relief line and have been an active partner in Toronto’s transit planning.
They have not committed any further funding towards the building or design of the relief line, and have indicated that the province will not be making further commitments for another two years.
Tory, on the other hand, is saying that the province needs to step up and commit to helping fund the downtown relief line, especially since the Kathleen Wynne government shut down his plan to toll the DVP and Gardiner Expressway for dedicated transit funds.
“I’m not asking for a blank cheque,” Tory said. “I’m asking for a commitment.”
The relief line alignment passed 42-1. Amendments to the original motion include an exploration into cost-sharing for the Yonge extension and the promise that the Yonge North subway won’t open unless the relief line is built and funding is made available.