Mississauga Mayor Stresses Importance of LRT in Meeting with Doug Ford
While there’s currently some uncertainty regarding the future of the upcoming $1.4 billion Hurontario LRT, construction on the significant higher-order transit project is ongoing and the mayor of Mississauga is working hard to stress the importance of the project to the province’s newly-elected premier.
“We had a very productive meeting [with the premier] and our number one priority is the LRT and number two is all-day, two-way Go train service,” says Mayor Bonnie Crombie, adding that other priorities include hospital revitalization and affordable housing.
On Dec. 10, Premier Doug Ford met with Ontario mayors at Queen’s Park to discuss some key priorities, including transportation infrastructure, increasing housing inventory (which will hopefully make homes more affordable) and “making sure that municipalities are open for business.”
The province says Ford also discussed private cannabis retail stores, public health and public safety.
Over the course of the day, Ford met with Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie; Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham; London Mayor Ed Holder; Crombie; Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes; Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson; and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.
Crombie said that she briefed Ford on the city’s progress and plans for attracting more businesses, and worked to make a compelling business case for the city’s higher-order transit projects.
“We conveyed our top priorities and I let [Ford] know that we’re a poster child for efficiencies in savings—we found $50 million in savings over the past few years—and we’re open for business as well.”
Mississauga has been adept at attracting investment. When the new council was officially inaugurated last week, the city released a document detailing its vision and highlighting its progress. According to the city, Mississauga has welcomed more than 430 companies and created more than 11,500 jobs, generating $20 million in new annual revenue for the city.
It’s open for business indeed (sans the signage).
But while it’s safe to say that Ford might be impressed with Mississauga’s dedication to attracting more businesses, it’s not yet clear if the new PC government will issue some bad news on the LRT and all-day, two-way GO train service front.
On Nov. 13, troubling speculation about the future of the Hurontario LRT emerged.
“After a concerning meeting with the ministry representatives where they refused to end rumors that the government is planning to cancel the planned Hurontario LRT and GO Electrification, I gave Doug Ford’s government another chance to set the record straight,” wrote Jessica Bell, NDP critic for transit, in a November news release.
The LRT, a project being carried out by Metrolinx, will span 20 km and run from the Port Credit GO at Lakeshore Rd. in the south to the Brampton Gateway Terminal at Steeles Ave in the north.
The LRT will boast 22 stops and provide connections to the Port Credit and Cooksville GO stations, Mississauga Transitway, MiWay and Zum transit lines.
As of now, the PC government has not confirmed or denied rumors that the LRT is on the chopping block, but has insinuated that it’s not necessarily a done deal, citing “inefficiencies.”
“Our government is committed to improving the transit experience across the GTHA to get people moving and make life easier for Ontarians. We are determined to deliver a modern transit system that will serve the region’s growing communities, drive economic development and alleviate traffic congestion.” says Jeff Yurek, a spokesperson for the Transportation Minister.
“We have to eliminate the inefficiencies of the previous Liberal government and make sure we invest in efficient and effective transit projects that achieve the best value for our customer - the Ontario taxpayer. Our decisions will be based on what is best for the people of the GTHA, including Peel Region.”
And while it is not yet clear whether or not the project is doomed (and at this point, Crombie appears optimistic that it will move forward as planned), the ramifications of possible cancellation are serious and vast.
Now, Crombie says she’s highlighting how crucial the project is for the city,
“Our top priority was the LRT because 38,000 companies are or will be located along that line and 140,000 people already live there,” Crombie said, adding that multiple residential developments—46, to be exact—are planned (albeit not all approved) for the city’s downtown core over the next 10 years.
“Those developments began because of the news of the LRT.”
Crombie said Ford and other PC representatives seemed receptive to hearing about how important the LRT will be to the city’s development.
“They were nodding and we were happy for the opportunity to convey our priorities in great detail. Sixty thousand people use bus transit on Hurontario right now, and we would take five buses off the road for every train. We need to make the business case and give him the facts. I believe he was very receptive.”
Crombie also touched upon the controversial notion of potentially leaving the Region of Peel—something that even Hazel McCallion advocated for during her lengthy tenure as mayor.
“There will be a regional government review, but it has not begun,” says Crombie. “Certainly, the province is looking at all alternatives, they’re very aware of our position and they’re aware of our desire for Mississauga to control its own destiny.”
And while the PC government mentioned the possibility of extending the TTC subway system to the suburbs a few weeks ago, Crombie says that possibility did not come up during the meeting.
“No, he did not mention the subway. You need a lot of density and we can’t make that business case, but if they connect it to our LRT and if he wanted to build a subway to Mississauga, we wouldn’t say no.”
Crombie says she emphasized that all-way, two-way GO service can effectively function as an above-ground subway—and that idea isn’t new.
Over the years, Crombie has previously referred to what is known as ‘The Missing Link,’ whereby freight cargo will be diverted to a new train line, freeing up the existing Milton GO line for increased trips, eventually transforming the Milton GO line into an all day two way service like the Lakeshore GO line is currently.
However, this is contingent on CN Rail, who owns the track, allowing that to happen.
“We talked about it as an all-day surface subway, and he likes to see things in those terms. He seemed supportive for the entire presentation,” says Crombie, adding that she emphasized that Mississauga has a large population of young professionals who need transport in (and into) the city.
“We have millennials and we have a lot of jobs, such as in the Meadowvale business corridor, and people need a way to get to work. Investment in public transit is an investment in the economy.”
On the affordable housing front, Crombie—who leads a city that recently established its own Making Room for the Middle affordable housing plan targeting middle-income earners—said that Ford agreed that house prices are being driven by low inventory (something real estate agencies have been stressing for some time).
While the province has pledged to look into selling off surplus government-owned lands to potentially generate more housing—and thus drive down skyhigh prices—no surplus lands have been identified in Mississauga at this time.
As for transit, it does not appear that the province has indicated that the LRT is a foregone conclusion—but it has not yet made any move to pull or halt funding.
“We had a very productive meeting and I think we established a strong working relationship,” says Crombie.
“The LRT is moving forward at this point.”
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