Toronto

Mayor 'expressed concern' about Fort York bridge: councillor

A Toronto council move to halt work on a pedestrian bridge designed to link two neighborhoods at historic Fort York was prompted by concerns from Mayor Rob Ford and the city's budget chief Mike del Grande, says a top councillor.

A Toronto council move to halt work on a pedestrian bridge designed to link two neighborhoods at historic Fort York was prompted in part by the concerns of Mayor Rob Ford and the city's budget chief Mike Del Grande, says a top councillor.

The public works and infrastructure committee on Apr. 27 voted in favour of a motion moved by Coun. David Shiner that city staff try to find a cheaper alternative to the Fort York Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge. It's currently budgeted at $22 million, after an original estimated to cost $18 million.

Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, the chair of the committee, revealed on Tuesday that Ford and Del Grande had weighed in on the cost associated with the project.

"The Mayor has expressed some concern about trying to get our finances in order. And he has expressed concern about the cost of the bridge," Minnan-Wong told CBC's Metro Morning.

"The budget chief [Mike Del Grande] has expressed concern, because he has to find the money. So we're taking a step back and saying: 'How are we going to afford this?'"

The Fort York bridge is estimated to cost around $22 million. (City of Toronto)

The bridge, a featuring a twisting double helix design, is envisioned as a centrepiece of Toronto's War of 1812 bicentennial celebrations. It is to span GO train tracks and link Stanley Park to the north and the Fort York grounds to the south.

Minnan-Wong stressed that the plan does not scrap the construction of a bridge, rather it opens the door to a cheaper alternative.

"Some councillors may not care about affordability but this administration does," he said, adding the bridge hasn't been paid for.

But Coun. Mike Layton, in whose ward the bridge was to be built, is fighting to preserve the plan. He argued that the initial estimated $18-million cost was already included in the capital budget.

He also argued that delaying the program now could scuttle the project entirely, as it will be harder to build the bridge when trains begin running on the new Airport Rail Line and GO's Georgetown South Line. The city has already coordinated with regional transportation authority Metrolinx on a construction date that won't be complicated by an operational rail service, he said.

"If we don't approve this now, we miss our window to access those tracks. If we want to build it later, we're going to have to go in and say and say, 'Hey Metrolinx, stop running those trains every hour out to Pearson," he said.

"The city needs to play the role of the catalyst. In doing so, we need to provide some key pieces of infrastructure that makes our city more attractive to investment."