Yonge Street rapidways funding announced
Councillors fear new bus lanes spell end of subway extension
On April 22, the Ontario government announced the awarding of a $260.5 million contract to York RapidLink Constructors to build dedicated bus lanes (rapidways) along Yonge Street through Richmond Hill and Newmarket.
“Investing in public transit reflects the Ontario government’s commitment to reducing congestion on our roads,” said Glen Murray, minister of transportation and infrastructure.
But not everyone is singing the praises of this significant investment. Thornhill councillors Valerie Burke and Alan Shefman, along with MP Peter Kent and Richmond Hill councillor Godwin Chan, have been active proponents of a Yonge Street subway extension up to Highway 7. Burke and Shefman fear the rapidways initiative would take funding away from the extension.
“We’re trying to keep momentum on the extension,” said Burke. “There have been many meetings, and it basically stalled out.… We’re at the next phase, the engineering phase, which is $100 million. If the rapidways are going to take $200 million plus, there’s not going to be funding for the engineering.” The extension has already met several roadblocks, with politicians saying that a downtown relief line in Toronto should be a greater priority in order to ease congestion on the line.
For his part, Shefman agrees that a relief line is helpful. “The moment there is some openness on other parts of the Yonge line, this Yonge Street north line could be in the ground ready to build,” said Shefman. “We just can’t get that message through that the old style of doing transit, to get billions of dollars and dump it into one project, doesn’t work.”
Chan is taking a slightly more optimistic tone. “While there has always been competition for limited funding resources, I am cautiously optimistic,” said Chan. He says the meeting of the two routes at Highway 7 would make the extension more appealing to provincial backers.
“Highway 7 at Richmond Hill Centre could truly be the Union Station of the north.”
“Dumping billions of dollars into one project doesn’t work.”
Minister of Transportation, Glen Murray (far right), announcing vital transit funding