Latest News

Questions linger over transit project funds

Durham pegged to receive $175 million but may have to spend an additional $40 to $50 million

Durham Region is juggling transit projects as it seeks to meet matching funds from upper levels of government.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

There were happy faces abound at regional headquarters this March due to the news Durham would be receiving $175 million in federal and provincial funding over the next decade for transit infrastructure projects.

But there were a few unhappy faces after a staff report noted that Durham could rack up an extra $40 to 50 million in spending for these projects.

The $175 million is part of the second phase of the federal-provincial collaboration Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF).

Completion of the Highway 2 bus rapid transit, a new central bus storage facility, and development of bus rapid transit on Simcoe Street are under consideration as potential projects.

Cost estimates for these three projects are a combined $285.5 million, including $220 million for the Highway 2 BRT program.

Durham’s share of PTIF projects could run between $59.3 to $64.1 million.

Final figures will depend on whether projects focus on expansion/new construction or rehabilitation.

The extra $40 to $50 million noted in the staff report relates to land acquisition and staffing costs ineligible for PTIF funding.

“It’s largely related to land around Highway 2,” Mary Simpson, director of financial planning and purchasing for the region, told committee members.

Ajax Councillor and committee vice-chair Shaun Collier voiced concern over the lack of details released on the program so far.

“Are we supposed to base our projects on when we receive revenue,” he asked. “We’ve already made an announcement about this.”

The province will begin the intake of projects for consideration in late-2018, and Simpson says it will not be an effortless process.

“Any project over $50 million will be heavily scrutinized by senior governments,” she said.

As with many other bilateral funding agreements, municipal projects would face deadlines.

“The funds could be reallocated if those are not met,” Simpson said, which would hang financial responsibility on the region.

Staff will report back later this year with project plans and financing strategies in the 2019 transit servicing and financing study.