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Scarborough LRT work halted while city council seeks funds for subway

Bruce McCuaig, President and CEO of Metrolinx outlines the agency's shortlist of revenue tool options in advance of its official investment strategy. Some of the options they're looking at include taxes on fuel, tolls to drive and levies on parking. April 2, 2013.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Work has formally stopped on the LRT project in Scarborough, putting the onus on the city of Toronto to come up with funding for a subway there instead.

In a letter released Wednesday, the head of the regional transit agency Metrolinx confirmed that the LRT project could be resuscitated should the subway proposal fail. But Bruce McCuaig said work could not, in good conscience, continue in the meantime.

"We will not expend any more funds on the project because it no longer enjoys the essential support of our partner, City Council," Mr. McCuaig said in a letter he sent last week to City Manager Joe Pennachetti. "It would be imprudent for us to spend more on a project Council has by majority vote repudiated."

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There have long been plans to replace the aging Scarborough rapid-transit line with a light-rail line. The project was cheaper than a subway and deemed by planners to serve the area better. But the decision was seized upon by politicians, including Mayor Rob Ford, who claimed that anything less than a subway was treating Scarborough residents as second-class citizens.

After heated debate, council voted last month in favour of a subway instead. But there were several conditions attached, including that Ottawa would have to fund a substantial portion and that the subway could not jeopardize existing plans for three other light-rail routes.

In his letter, Mr. McCuaig stressed again that the subway proposal will not be able to take advantage of the full $1.8-billion originally earmarked for the Scarborough LRT. In spite of the howls of some Toronto politicians, Metrolinx has long said that some of that money has to be re-allocated to the Eglinton LRT project if Scarborough gets a subway instead. Only $1.4-billion can be used for a subway, Mr. McCuaig reiterated in his letter, A subway will cost about $2.3-billion, leaving the city to find approximately $900-million. If the subway proposal falls apart, though, Metrolinx is ready to honour the original agreement stipulating light-rail.

"Putting the Scarborough LRT on hold is not due to any shortcomings inherent in the project," Mr. McCuaig wrote. "The project would serve Toronto and its communities well. In the event the City suspends pursuit of the subway extension, Metrolinx is prepared to return to implementing the current project."

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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