It's been one year since council rejected his unfunded underground transit plan, but for Rob Ford, the dream will not die.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon to address the federal budget unveiled in Ottawa the day before, Mayor Ford reaffirmed his support for extending the Sheppard Ave. subway and putting the Finch West LRT underground.
He suggested the city could use some of the Conservative budget's $47 billion in municipal infrastructure spending to pay for the projects.
"The priority for transit expansion, first and foremost, is finishing the Sheppard subway," Ford said.
"You finish what you started. The people in Scarborough need, and want, and will get a subway," he added.
A short subway line was built on Sheppard between Yonge and Don Mills in 2002. Ford campaigned on extending it to the Scarborough Town Centre, but in March 2012 council voted to build an LRT instead.
As for the Finch LRT, which council voted last February to build above ground, Ford had this to say:
"Finch Ave. is currently over capacity, and our plans to install a light rail down the middle of Finch will do nothing to help reduce commuting times. It will just cause more chaos, as it has done on St. Clair. People do not want that. We should adjust our plans now, to make this a faster solution, and that means burying the line."
His comments flew in the face of statements made yesterday by TTC chair Karen Stintz, who announced her intention to tap into the federal infrastructure money to build a Downtown Relief Line subway. Last October the TTC board voted to make the DRL a priority, and both TTC staff and provincial transit agency Metrolinx have identified it as Toronto's next subway project.
On Thursday Stintz noted that the $47-billion Building Canada fund is to be spread out between municipalities across the country, and Toronto will have to fight to get its "fair share." Securing the funds could be difficult if Ford and his TTC chair are advocating different projects, however.
Stintz did not immediately return a request for comment Friday afternoon. But in a statement posted to her website she said that studies by the TTC and city staff have repeatedly rejected the idea of extending the Sheppard subway.
"A Sheppard Avenue East Subway has now been judged twice by experts... as a waste of taxpayer money," the statement reads. "The continued lack of private interest supports this."
The statement also argues that the DRL would help improve transit times for the Scarborough residents Ford says he is fighting for.
"The commute to and from Scarborough will only get worse without a Relief Line. There is no doubt about this."
Reached Friday afternoon, TTC spokesperson Brad Ross confirmed that despite the mayor's comments, the DRL remains the commission's first concern.
"The CEO of the TTC has affirmed that as a priority," said Ross. "That hasn't changed."
The DRL would connect the eastern arm of the Bloor-Danforth subway line to the southern end of the Yonge line. It's seen as crucial to alleviating the brutal congestion on the Yonge subway, which the TTC predicts will reach capacity by 2031.
On Friday, Ford suggested that extending the Sheppard subway to the Scarborough Town Centre in the east and to Downsview in the west would also significantly relieve crowding on the Yonge line. That position is not backed up by the most recent TTC study on downtown transit.