A $17.5-billion plan for public transit in theGreater TorontoAreaandHamilton was announced Friday by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The plan includesfunding for the extension of Toronto's subway, expansion of GO Transit and the construction of rapid transit lines in Hamilton.

The MoveOntario 2020 action plan aims to ease gridlock and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by building 52rapid transit projects over 12 years, starting in 2008.

The projects, which add up to 900 kilometres of rapid transit,include:

  • Extending the Yonge Street subway line north into York Region to Highway 7.
  • Increasing the speed and reducing emissions by electrifying the GO Transit Lakeshore train line.
  • Expanding capacity on all GO Transit train lines.
  • Creating two rapid transit lines across Hamilton.

'A fantastic, exciting day for Toronto'

Toronto's ambitious transit plan to create a network of streetcar lines across the city is also receiving funding.

Mayor David Miller called Friday's announcement "historic," and said the city is thrilled the province is picking up the tab for its $6-billiontransit plan to build seven new streetcar lines.

"It's about the Toronto region and Hamilton succeeding in the 21st century. …What the province of Ontario has done today is ensured our success," said Miller.

"In the past 20 years, they've built bits and pieces. Now we'll build a network. Couldn't be better."

Adam Giambrone, chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, said construction on the streetcar lines will begin in just over a year. "Today is quite frankly a fantastic, exciting day for Toronto."

Giambrone said, however, that the TTC remains committed to streetcars, not subways, and the Yonge line extension will have to be fully funded by Ontario and York Region.

Ontario asks feds to pay one-third

Ontario will pay for two-thirds of the projects and has asked for the federal government to cover at least one-third of the cost.

"After all, Ontario remains the economic engine of Canada and the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that engine runs smoothly," said McGuinty at a news conference Friday.

If no federal funds are made available, a senior provincial officialtold CBC News thatthe transit improvements will still go ahead, but not as quickly as planned.

Construction on the transit projects will not begin until 2008, after the Oct. 10 provincial election - a fact that worries Peter Tabuns, the New Democrats' environment and transportation critic.

"What I make of it is a very big election promise by a premier who breaks promises," said Tabuns.

Progressive Conservative MPP Joyce Saveline, on the other hand, accused McGuinty of ripping a page from the Tory platform on transit released last week.