Pay for subways with tolls: Candidate

A $5 toll should be charged on Toronto’s two highways to pay for a proposed expansion of the subway system, says Ward 44 resident and mayoral candidate Sarah Thompson.

Thompson’s $13-billion plan would replace the proposed light rail system and place a levy on drivers on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway during rush hours for the duration of subway construction.

Up to $8 billion of the required funds would come from the provincial government and the remaining $5 billion would come from the city, largely through the road usage toll, Thompson said at a press conference on March 17.

“Once the tolls have paid for their own infrastructure and ongoing maintenance, 100 per cent of the funds will be devoted to our subway construction and expansion priorities,” she said.

Based on 2006 traffic counts, Thompson estimates the toll will generate $400–$500 million per year. An automatic sunset clause would take effect, eliminating the toll once the subway expansion is completed.

“If this project were to run over 10 years the percentage of funding that might possibly come from the rush-hour tolls would be 28.5% to 35.7%,” Thompson said in an interview. “Everyone who uses all modes of transportation would be investing in the subway expansion, not just drivers.”

The 58-kilometre subway expansion would add a line along Eglinton Avenue stretching from Pearson International Airport to Kingston Road in Scarborough, a relief line on Queen Street that connects Pape Avenue and Dundas Street West and an extension to the Yonge-University line to Steeles Avenue and York University.

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A subway system, which has a 90-year lifespan, is a better investment than the proposed Light Rail Transit system, which only has a 30-year lifespan, says Thompson. She is urging construction be halted on the LRT and funds diverted to subway expansion.

Thompson said she is hopeful drivers will not be opposed to the toll which help alleviate the cost of the subway expansion for taxpayers.

“An expanded subway system will have a positive long-term economic impact on Toronto encouraging job growth and a stable future for our city and for those who work here.”