The not-yet-finished Hazel McCallion LRT in Mississauga is set to receive a double boost from the Ford government, with plans to add to the route in both Mississauga and Brampton.
Ontario Minister of Transportation Prabmeet Sarkaria has requested provincial transit agency Metrolinx urgently prepare a business case for the move.
The instruction signals the start of two major infrastructure commitments from the province to extend the light rail route set to run from Port Credit along Hurontario Street.
Metrolinx is now being asked to rapidly work out how it can re-add a previously cancelled loop through downtown Mississauga, while also extending the line north into downtown Brampton
“Peel is one of Canada’s fastest-growing regions. Our government will continue to invest historic amounts in connected transportation there — and across the province — so that Ontarians can spend less time commuting and more time at home, doing what matters most to them,” a spokesperson for the Ford government said.
The transit agency has until Feb. 5 to complete an initial business case to build the two additions to the route, according to a letter obtained by Global News, while it has also been told to begin preparations to seek companies to design and build them.
Initial business cases are generally designed to outline high-level cost estimates, design options and how new projects could impact the surrounding community.
The decision to extend the project before the original line is even finished is a lesson learned from the years of delays seen on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the letter from Sarkaria to Metrolinx said.
“Our government is doing construction differently,” the letter said, referencing the languishing Toronto line, which — like the Mississauga LRT — started its life under a previous administration.
Downtown Mississsauga loop
Part of the initial plan for the light rail route through the heart of Mississauga was a three-stop loop around Square One Mall, through the city’s downtown.
In 2019, Metrolinx announced it would cut the loop from the project due to “budget pressures,” reducing the route from 22 to 19 stops. The move is one city councillors in Mississauga have repeatedly called on the province to reverse, arguing the downtown portion of the line is key to growing the city.
The area is home to a series of 50-storey-plus towers, a large mall and city hall itself.
Roughly three years after it was cut, at a press conference in early 2022, Ontario Premier Doug Ford suggested he was willing to reverse the cost-cutting measure. He said the loop would be re-added “eventually” in an off-the-cuff remark.
“My finance minister and president of treasury are probably shooting me through the screen for saying that right now, but that’s our goal to make sure that we finish the loop,” Ford said.
Sarkaria’s request for Metrolinx to re-start work on the loop they previously cut from the project referenced the moment, saying Ford had made the promise to add it back in “in the past.”
Construction of the route in Mississauga, including around the downtown, is already well underway. The line was due to be finished in 2024, though the government’s project page no longer lists a completion date.
The initial designs for the LRT under the former Ontario Liberal government proposed the new line would run from Port Credit in the south into downtown Brampton, connecting the local GO Train station.
In 2015, however, local Brampton councillors rejected the proposal, telling Queen’s Park they weren’t in favour of the line through the downtown, leaving it to terminate at Hurontario Street and Steeles Avenue.
Years of controversy on council over alternative possible routes followed, with the city under Mayor Patrick Brown favouring a tunnelled light rail extension through its historic downtown. Until Thursday and Sarkaria’s letter, there were few concrete indications the province would humour Brampton’s new request.
In his letter to Verster, Sarkaria said extending the LRT beyond the Mississauga/Brampton border would “better connect families and commuters” in the two cities.
The extension would run from Steeles Avenue and terminate at the downtown Brampton GO station — recently renamed Brampton Innovation District GO.
The area it would serve includes Brampton’s historic downtown, city hall and an Algoma University campus.
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