Plans for a Toronto-to-Windsor high speed rail line, with the Request for Proposals (RFP) for planning and environmental assessment work slated for release in December, according to a discussion held at the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships (CCPPP) 25th annual conference.
David Collenette, who was hired by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in October of 2015 as special advisor for high-speed rail, led the discussion on the proposed $21-billion project. Collenette wrote the report showing that there is a business case for the project, which was released in May of this year. The province has adopted the plan to move forward with the seven-station project, starting with phase one from Toronto to London.
The Toronto to London portion of the line, in itself, is really two phases of development. From Toronto to Kitchener-Waterloo, which will include stops at Pearson/Malton and Guelph, will run on the existing GO Kitchener line. From Kitchener to London, an entirely new line will need to be built, with the plan to build alongside an existing transmission line corridor. The second phase of the project would be to then build the line through to Windsor.
During the discussion, the point was raised as to whether or not connection to Pearson International Airport was necessary considering the existence of the Union-Pearson Express.
“If you’re going to build high speed rail, you have to go to Pearson,” stated Collenette. With the current Kitchener rail line touching the northeast portion of the airport lands, and the ability to efficiently move people to North America’s second busiest airport through transportation not impacted by weather conditions, there are many positive impacts that can be realized through linking the line to Pearson International Airport.
Lessening the residential burden
According to Collenette’s report, the construction of the HSR provides a real opportunity to take pressure off of the Greater Toronto Area. The project would make Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, and London very reasonable commute times for people living in those cities but working in downtown Toronto. At 39 minutes, 48 minutes, and 73 minutes respectively, those commute times represent times that are less than the current GO train commute from three stops on the Barrie GO line as an example. Increasing the number of ‘commuter cities’ to Toronto could then alleviate part of the housing crunch experienced by the area, moving some of the next wave of housing needs to other markets in the region.
With two portions of the project moving to the RFP stage next month, and the announcement in October of the formation of a Planning Advisory Board, the project is taking steps to becoming a reality. But there is still the need for a Value-for-Money analysis to help determine the optimum financial model to pay for the project, and a need to define the best delivery for the construction itself.
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