By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
City councillors have voted unanimously to go ahead with forming a business case for expanding GO train service further east.
A partnership between municipalities, developers and other private partners could cost the city $20,000 if completed, but with an announcement pending from the province, it may turn out the business case isn’t needed at all.
“All of the rumours of an announcement, they are just that – they’re rumours,” says Jag Sharma, Oshawa’s city manager.
“What we can’t do is count on rumours. We have to plan accordingly.”
Now, city staff will be working with their counterparts from Clarington, Durham Region, Port Hope, Cobourg and Northumberland County, along with partners in the development industry, to move forward with a document that would further show the need for GO Transit’s eastward expansion.
Earlier this year, the group made public an economic impact analysis that showed the 25-kilometre extension through central Oshawa to Bowmanville would create approximately 21,000 jobs and help save residents $70 million annually.
A business case would provide a much more detailed picture of how the extension could go forward and analyze the risks, the dollars and the complications possibly involved with the project.
“It’ll be looking at justifying the expenditure and making sure there’s value for money from a business perspective,” says Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services.
However, it is still uncertain as to whether the business case will actually become a reality. Currently, the funding from other partners is still unclear and if the province were to announce funding for the project, something it has been hinting at for months, the business case would essentially become moot.
“If the province were to make an announcement and a commitment to the GO train east, I don’t know that the business case would be needed,” Sharma says.
“The province has completed an environmental assessment that basically has outlined the GO train east extension.”
For that reason, any contract signed with a consultant on the business case, which could come with a $150,000 price tag, will include “exit ramps” to ensure the city is able to save portions of its $20,000 if an announcement comes from the province. Currently, funding for the case has also been confirmed from Clarington and Durham Region.
“If we’re halfway through the process and we’ve invested $20,000, in theory, we’d conserve $10,000 of that by exiting the business case at the appropriate time,” Sharma says.
However, Mayor John Henry says he believes things may not get to that point, adding that if an announcement is going to happen, it’ll be soon, following several commitments from Durham MPP Granville Anderson.
“He made that in a very public way….we’re going to hold him to that,” Henry says.
And despite the risk of investing in a document that may not be needed in the long run, Henry says there are not many other options.
“If the announcement is not going to come, then it’ll be necessary to put this case together,” he says.
Currently, plans are in place to have a request for proposals issued and awarded by the end of the month, with the final document completed in October or November.