Eglinton LRT Rob Ford

Does it make any sense to bury the entire Eglinton LRT?

In the last week or so, Mayor Rob Ford's plan to bury the Eglinton Crosstown LRT has drawn renewed criticism. Much of this has to do with the complications and potential cost overruns associated with tunnelling the line underneath the Don Valley, but the problems don't end there. In an article on Spacing today, John Lorinc argues that should plans go through to bury the entire line, it will "be remembered as the single most expensive infrastructure mistake in Toronto history."

Those are some strong words, but the prediction doesn't seem so hyperbolic when you look at the numbers. "The $2.2 billion premium for concealing those awful streetcars from view is almost equivalent to the cost of the entire Spadina subway extension from Downsview to Vaughan city centre," Lorinc explains. "It is slightly more than what the City will spend on all repairs to road and bridges between 2012 and 2020."

Wow. And that, as Lorinc also points out, is if the project comes in on budget, which it likely won't thanks to that pesky valley.

So why is Ford so adamant about getting the LRVs underground? Is it just cosmetics, as Lorinc suggests? Is it because the province is picking up the tab? Maybe it's ideology that accounts for the decision-making on this one. Whatever the reason, there's ample evidence to suggest that the cost to benefit ratio of keeping the line underground it totally out of whack.

If there's a sliver lining, it's that the Environmental Assessments related to crossing the Don will likely put the burial of the line back before council next year. Would it be naive to think that in the face of mounting evidence against the scheme, that council will do the sensible thing and revert to the original plan?

Photo by MrDanMofo in the blogTO Flickr pool


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