Government targets rail transit

York Region, areas serviced by GO trains would get spending boost of $1.2-billion

By RICHARD MACKIE, The Globe and Mail - Mar. 28, 2003

In a bid to reduce highway congestion around Toronto, the Ontario, federal and municipal governments plan to increase spending on GO Transit and on York Region Transit by about $1.2-billion over the next few years.

New GO Transit service will be provided for Barrie by rail and for Peterborough, Cambridge, Niagara Falls and Kitchener-Waterloo by bus and train.

The spending will improve and increase the access of GO trains to Union Station, upgrade GO Transit's rail corridors to Georgetown and Milton, and allow more trains to Bradford and Stouffville.

About $150-million will be provided to start work on rapid transit in York Region. The region is expected to have a population of 1.28 million by 2026.

Plans for the spending are to be announced in today's provincial economic statement. An advance peek at the plans was provided yesterday by the federal government. Each of the two governments is to provide $435-million for the transit scheme. The rest of the money will come from local municipalities.

Plans to upgrade GO Transit have been under development since September, 2001, when then premier Mike Harris declared it was a priority for the government.

The improvements are seen as essential to reduce gridlock in the area around Toronto and into the Niagara Peninsula. Politically, these improvements are vital if the Conservative government wants to hold on to its support in the 905 regional belt around Toronto.

Already, GO Transit carries more than 43 million passengers a year on its network of trains and buses.

The bottleneck at the Union Station terminal in downtown Toronto has been a major obstacle in any attempts to expand GO Transit service. The new money will allow modernization of the 70-year-old track and signal installations to allow additional GO and Via Rail trains to use the station.

A third track will be built from Union Station to Scarborough to allow additional trains to operate during peak periods.

Other third tracks will be built from Port Credit to Oakville and from Burlington to Hamilton Junction. These expansions are a prerequisite for the extension of the Lakeshore corridor westward into the Niagara Peninsula.

Grade separations on the Georgetown and Milton corridors of GO Transit will allow additional trains at peak periods and set the stage for all-day train service from Brampton to Union Station.

This grade separation is also considered essential for any future rail link from Pearson Airport to Union Station.

The $150-million for York Region Transit will pay for new rapid-transit vehicles and stations along four corridors: Yonge-Newmarket, Highway 7, Vaughan-Downsview and Markham-Don Mills.


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