SmartTrack will cost an additional $234 million, and the province should foot the bill, according to a city employee report
A new report says that building five SmartTrack stations in Toronto will cost an additional $234 million due to unexpected costs, and city officials say Toronto should ask the province for the money.
In a report to the city’s executive committee, officials say the existing budget for SmartTrack is $1.463 billion, but “numerous unforeseen factors” have caused the estimated cost to increase. The committee is expected to consider the report at its March 21 meeting.
SmartTrack is a plan proposed by former Mayor John Tory to bolster the city’s rail system with existing GO Transit commuter lines and would consist of five stations: Finch-Kennedy, East Harbour, King-Liberty, St. Clair- Old Weston and Bloor-Lansdowne. Design work has begun at four of the stations and utilities are already being moved at the Finch-Kennedy site.
“City officials are seeking direction from the City Council to require the Province of Ontario to pay any amounts in excess of the original program budget,” the report said.
“Since the program will also benefit the province through increased ridership on the GO system, and the province will own and maintain the SmartTrack stations, there is a strong case for the province to participate in increasing the cost of the program,” it said it in the report.
Dakota Brasier, spokeswoman for the Ontario Department of Transportation, said in an email Wednesday that the department is still reviewing the city’s report.
“Our office has had discussions with Deputy Mayor McKelvie and will have more to say as those discussions progress,” Brasier said.
The original proposal promised 22 stations
The original SmartTrack proposal, which was at the heart of Tory’s 2014 mayoral campaign, promised to build 22 stations on existing GO Transit rail corridors by 2021. The transit project is now reduced to five transit stations.
Under terms negotiated between the city and the province, the five stations would be built by the province and its agencies, namely Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.
According to the report, Metrolinx has told the city that costs are rising due to economic challenges including supply chain uncertainty, inflation uncertainty and a surge in rail sector projects leading to labor shortages and less competition in the market.
“The reasoning provided by Metrolinx is consistent with the current conditions the city is experiencing in the planning and execution of its major capital projects,” the report states.
City officials said a decision on SmartTrack is urgently needed so the city can award the design-build contract for Bloor Lansdowne station in early April.
The report also calls for the city to notify Metrolinx that Toronto will not proceed with this station until the province has agreed to provide the additional funding required for all five stations.
If the province refuses to provide the additional funds, the report calls for the city council to direct the city manager to report to the executive committee as soon as possible to outline options.
Deputy Mayor committed to building Transit
In a statement Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said she is committed to building the transit and ensuring the city “stays at the table” with provincial and federal governments on transit projects.
“As the city’s employee report notes, the SmartTrack station program represents a significant investment in improving Toronto’s transportation capabilities and leverages existing transit infrastructure to serve more people,” McKelvie said in the statement.
SmartTrack will “accelerate the transformation of Toronto’s heavy transit infrastructure from a regional commuter service to an urban rapid transit network, bringing faster transit to communities across the city,” added McKelvie.
Some of the stations could open to drivers in three years, she said.
count. Josh Matlow, the Toronto-St. Paul’s said in an interview on Wednesday he supports the construction of the five stations and thinks the city should ask the province for the additional funds, but is concerned the city is paying more than its share of the cost. He said SmartTrack is part of GO Expansion, a program that will expand GO’s rail network.
“The report further demonstrates what absolute stupidity this was for the City of Toronto,” Matlow said.
“SmartTrack was really a branding exercise of the 2014 John Tory mayoral campaign for a provincial GO project that was originally intended to be fully provincial funded. But because John Tory renamed it SmartTrack, the city ended up paying much of the bill,” he added.
“We ended up paying for what the province of Ontario was going to build anyway.”