Province announces 30-year transit vision, including plan to connect Ontario Line to Pearson

The province has announced its 30-year vision to enhance transit in southern Ontario — including a plan that would connect the proposed Ontario Line to Toronto's Pearson International Airport — but hasn't laid out details regarding feasibility, accessibility or cost. 

Opposition calls plan 'just another Ford election gimmick'

Ontario Premier Doug Ford detailed plans Thursday for the province's 30-year vision of how to expand transit in the Greater Golden Horseshoe. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The province has announced its 30-year vision to enhance transit in southern Ontario — including a plan that would connect the proposed Ontario Line to Toronto's Pearson International Airport — but hasn't laid out details regarding feasibility or cost.

"A province that is growing as fast as ours needs a transportation network to support it," Premier Doug Ford told reporters Thursday at an announcement in Woodbridge, Ont.

"We need more roads, more highways, more options to get around, and that's exactly where we're putting your money."

The plan is focused within the Great Golden Horseshoe (GGH), which extends from Waterloo, Wellington and Brant County in the west, Peterborough and Northumberland in the east, Simcoe County in the north, and Haldimand and Niagara in the south.

The province says the population of that area is forecast to grow from 10 million to 14.9 million by 2051.

Materials presented by Transportation Ministry officials described the GGH as the "economic engine of the province and country," and said the transportation plan aims to fight anticipated gridlock and efficiently move goods.

The plan — laid out by the Progressive Conservatives a few months before the provincial election — mentions new "conceptual" transit connections.

First, officials say they will build a new east-west line between Burlington and Oshawa. They wouldn't confirm what type of transit system this would be, but said initial plans indicate some sort of light rail system. 

The province also plans to create a new transit loop that would connect the proposed Ontario Line to Pearson airport and the Richmond Hill Centre. Asked where this new loop would begin and end, officials didn't provide any details.

The plan also incorporates ways to widen and expand highways 400, 401, 403 and the QEW.

Over the next decade alone, the province plans to spend a projected $61 billion on transit and $21 billion on highways. Part of these costs, officials say, include the recently-announced Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass

Ford did not directly answer when asked Thursday why the public doesn't know the full costs of the highways. He said the growing population needs "to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible."

Opposition slams plan

Green Leader Mike Schreiner called both highways "financial and climate disasters" that would ultimately make life less affordable as people are forced to live further from their jobs and commute longer.

"Ford's transportation plan is going to pave over our children's future," he said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath echoed that sentiment, saying the highways aren't projects that will "be beneficial to the vast amount of people.

Horwath also questioned whether Highway 413 will, in fact, speed up travel times by up to 30 minutes, as the province claims. 

"What they are going to do is impact farm lands and wetlands," she said. 

Horwath said the 30-year plan as a whole is unrealistic, calling it a ploy for votes ahead of the upcoming election. 

"I think people need to realize that this government hasn't even spent the money that they had budgeted already for transportation projects," she told reporters at Queen's Park Thursday.

"It's just another Ford election gimmick."

With files from The Canadian Press