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Ontario proceeding with Finch West LRT

In the latest of a flurry of transit infrastructure announcements before and since last week’s launch of Ontario’s 2015 budget, the government of Ontario says it’s finally going to start building a light rail transit line along Finch Avenue West.

At a media event on Humber College’s North campus — the western terminal for the line — Ontario Minister of Transportation Stephen Del Duca and Metrolinx president and chief executive officer Bruce McCuaig declared that “Ontario is working with its agency, Metrolinx, and the City of Toronto to move forward on next steps to building the new…” $1.2 billion line.

(A casual or cynical observer might comment that this is the, well, umpteenth time that someone has announced that this line was going ahead, but, it seems, this time they really, really mean it.)

The 11-kilometre (6.8-mile) line includes 18 surface stops and one underground station between Humber College and the future Finch West Station on the TTC’s 1 Yonge - University line. The underground station would be at the future subway station, which the TTC is currently building as part of a project to extend the subway to Vaughan.

Metrolinx has projected the line would carry about 2,250 passengers each hour in the peak direction by 2031. The project includes a maintenance and storage facility for light rail vehicles on vacant land extending along the north side of Finch Avenue West between Norfinch Drive and York Gate Boulevard (just east of Highway 400).

It expects to start construction next spring (2016) and finish the project in 2021.

Metrolinx, the TTC and the City completed the preliminary design and environmental assessment phase for the Finch West LRT in 2010. Metrolinx says that a separate environmental assessment for the maintenance and storage facility will begin soon.

How many times has someone, somewhere announced something about this project? From the Transit Toronto archives, read:

  • March 2007: Toronto Mayor David Miller announces the line as part of the ambitious Transit City plan to build rapid transit lines throughout suburban Toronto. That would have seen the LRT extend further east of Finch Station (at Yonge Street), rather than only the new Finch West Station (at Keele Street).
  • June 2007 : Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announces that the Province of Ontario would finance a number of rapid transit projects in the Toronto area, including the entire Transit City plan.
  • March 2008: Ontario confirms funding of the project as part of its 2008 budget.
  • April 2009: Ontario reconfirms its support for the Finch line and five other rapid transit projects.
  • April 2009: Ontario Minister of Energy and Infrastructure apparently contends that, while the Ontario government had agreed to fund the lines, it had not agreed to pay for vehicles to operate along the lines.
  • May 2009: Premier McGuinty and Prime Minister Harper announce more funds to build light rail transit in Toronto — but along Sheppard Avenue East, not Finch West.
  • June 2009: Metrolinx announces its intention to build and control the Transit City lines.
  • January 2010: Construction of the first of the Transit City lines — Sheppard East — begins.
  • March 2010: The 2010 Ontario budget contains less funds for building transit. It agrees to continue to fund the line, it proposes cutting it back to Finch West Station, instead of Finch.
  • May 2010: Metrolinx proposes its “5 in 10” plan — to build only part of five rapid transit projects, including Finch West, in just ten years.
  • June 2010: Ontario signs a contract with Bombardier to supply light rail transit cars for the Transit City lines.
  • June 2010: Kathleen Wynne, then Ontario’s Transportation Minister, announces that the province had approved the “5 in 10” plan.
  • December 2010: New Toronto mayor, Rob Ford declares “Transit City’s over” on his first day in office.
  • April 2012: Metrolinx approves a plan to build four LRT lines in Toronto. It proposes starting construction on Finch West in 2015, with the line opening in 2018.
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