A Scarborough councillor says Metrolinx should move ahead with plans to put the Eglinton light-rail line underground, even if city council doesn’t support that option any longer.
Coun. Norm Kelly told reporters Tuesday that if the provincial agency concludes the Eglinton LRT should be buried, then it should proceed accordingly.
"The only advice I could give Metrolinx is that this is their project and if they see merit in going underground the whole way, then do it," Kelly said.
Kelly is among a group of Scarborough councillors who support Mayor Rob Ford’s preference to see the Eglinton line built below grade.
But the mayor has faced a recent challenge from TTC chair Karen Stintz, who thinks the city should keep the Eglinton line at grade where possible.
Stintz’s opposition ‘a betrayal,’ Doug Ford says
Her opposition to the mayor’s transit plan has drawn criticism from Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, who has characterized her position as "a betrayal" to the people who hired her.
"When we hired her, the mayor asked her: ‘Are you in favour of underground transit?’ " Ford told CBC News.
"She looked at him square in the eyes and said ‘absolutely.’ "
But Stintz said there was no talk of putting the Eglinton light-rail line underground when she took the TTC job.
"That’s my position, that if we don’t need to bury the Eglinton LRT and we can save $1 billion that we should do that," Stintz said.
Council to consider competing transit visions
Stintz and the mayor will find out which plan draws more support from council when a special meeting is held to debate the issue on Wednesday.
The meeting was called after Stintz brought forward a petition with the support of 23 other councillors, urging that council renew its support for the Transit City plan developed under former mayor David Miller.
The Transit City plan would build light-rail lines on Sheppard and Finch Avenues, while keeping much of the Eglinton line above ground. It also would replace the Scarborough RT with light rail.
The mayor opposes this approach and has declared Transit City "over". He signed a memorandum of understanding with the province to put the Eglinton line underground. Ford wants to extend the Sheppard subway, but it is still not clear how such a project would be funded.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said that council must make a decision on whether to proceed with the current plan to bury the Eglinton line, or provide its provincial partners with information about any alternative development plans.
‘Debate’ must be dealt with
Coun. James Pasternak told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that the fight over the future of Toronto’s transit was an issue that could no longer be ignored.
"This was becoming a brittle debate in the public domain over the future of the Eglinton Crosstown, what to do with Sheppard, what to do with Finch, the Metrolinx-TTC relationship and it was really important to stop running this debate in the press and bring it right into council," Pasternak said during an interview on Tuesday morning.
Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said that whatever happens, the council needs to provide some clarity on how they will proceed with their transit plans.
"We need to have a full airing, a full debate, decide what we’re going to do and then move forward together," said Minnan-Wong, who is a member of the TTC board.