Ontario’s Liberals are set to establish a greater commitment to reduce road congestion and improve public transit throughout the province. Transit funding is expected to increase to $3.4 billion in 2013-2014, according to the provincial budget which was delivered today at Queen’s Park by finance minister Charles Sousa.
According to the budget, the financial commitment has jumped nearly $1 billion from last year’s funding on public transit systems.
The government proposes to make permanent the allocation of 2.2 cents per litre of the provincial gas tax toward public transit costs. The tax has generated $2.2 billion for public transit systems in Ontario since 2004, according to the budget.
Some current public transit projects the province is financially aiding include up to $416 million to renew Toronto’s fleet of streetcars, up to $600 million to fund Ottawa’s light rail transit project, up to $300 million toward the Waterloo Region’s rapid transit project and $870 million to extend the TTC’s Yonge-University-Spadina subway line to York University and Vaughan.
The budget also addressed the congestion problem on provincial highways by investing $2.2 toward highway infrastructure.
Some of the highway infrastructure projects that are planned or underway include, widening “key” sections of Highway 401 in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), extending Highway 407 east into the Durham Region and introducing HOV lanes on sections of Highways 401, 404, 410 and 427 in the GTHA.
The province is also proposing to transform some high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in the GTHA into high-occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) lanes.
“We want to be able to offer a choice — if you wish to use them and pay for them,” Ontario finance minister Charles Sousa. “We know that in other parts of the world, they’ve been able to implement HOV’s and offer the HOT’s as an alternative.”
Sousa said that he estimates toll fees from HOVs/HOTs could generate $250 million to $300 million of additional revenue for the province, which will go back to fund public transit infrastructure.
The proposal was received with skepticism by NDP leader Andrea Horwath, who thinks that the toll lanes would result in more drivers on the road.
“The one thing that’s supposed to be about transit isn’t about transit,” she said during a press conference today. “What it does is discourage people from carpooling and create Lexus lanes in the Province of Ontario.”
Horwath said that the budget still lacks measures that will hold the Liberal party accountable on its proposals.
Author: ANDRE WIDJAJA, multimedia staff writer, QUEEN’S PARK