A better option for Eglinton’s LRT, and respect for taxpayers

Toronto has been abuzz this week with the idea of replacing the proposed tunneled sections of the Eglinton LRT east of Laird Rd., and putting it at street level. This is a terrible idea, since an LRT on the surface, between Laird Road and Kennedy Road will reduce road capacity to only two lanes of traffic each way, and will create serious restrictions for vehicles turning left, or wanting to go across Eglinton Avenue, between main intersections. Tunneling the entire length might not be the best option in the short term, therefore, I propose to put this LRT line elevated on a viaduct over the road’s median. That way, it will keep the six lanes of traffic, it would remove the HOV lanes for improved road capacity, and will make the LRT commute more pleasant with the views above the city.

Vancouver’s Canada Line cost $2 billion, and includes a tunneled section of 9.1 km, an elevated section of 7.9 km (including a 614 m long bridge), and an at-grade portion of 1.4 km. An improved Eglinton LRT proposal would have similar characteristics, since it contemplates about 11 km of tunnels (from Black Creek to Brentcliffe), and an elevated section of about 8 km long between Brentcliffe and Kennedy. Why can’t we do the same here in Toronto?

With respect to the proposed cost for the Eglinton LRT, I am sure that there is a lot of room for improvement. When it was first proposed in 2007, the tunneled section was budgeted at $2.2 billion, or $200 million per km. Then, in 2009 the province of Ontario announced a $4.6 billion funding for this line, therefore, if we follow the premise that the cost of building LRTs at-grade is about $60 million per km, then the tunneled section would’ve risen to $3.3 billion, or $300 million per km, a 50% increase. Then, in 2011 it was announced that the entire tunneling (with a retrofit of the Scarborough RT line) would cost $8.2 billion, or almost $400 million per km for the tunneled section only, a 100% increase from the original estimate. And this week, it is revealed that by turning 8 km of the tunnel back to the surface, it will lower the Eglinton LRT proposal to about $6.5 billion, so the tunnels would now cost $500 million per km, or 250% of the original cost!

(Click on the table to enlarge)

Are the citizens of this city aware of this serious budgeting over-inflation? Are the politicians that we elected aware of this situation? And on top of that, there are still trying to reduce our road infrastructure and capacity, by putting LRTs in the middle of the streets, when the numbers of cars will only continue to grow in Toronto. Will the war on the car ever going to stop? When is respect for taxpayers going to happen? When are we going to come up with a serious and balanced transportation plan for our beloved city of Toronto?

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