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At Spacing, Luca De Franco has an interview with activist Richard Douglas, who’s been working to save the proposed pedestrian/cycling bridge that would span the rail tracks near Fort York.
The mayor and his allies have presented their opposition to the bridge as simple fiscal prudence. The bridge is over-budget, they say, so we must study cheaper alternatives. The reality is a bit more complicated, as Douglas explains. If we don’t build this thing on the planned schedule, it’s essentially never going to happen:
The returning of the Fort York Bridge project to Committee at Council effectively eliminates this project. The situation becomes even more time-sensitive when you consider that Metrolinx has provided a small window of opportunity to build this bridge. Once that window closes, surrounding communities and the City of Toronto will have lost out on a tremendous opportunity.
A commenter to the article also shares an automatic response sent to him by Councillor Mike Del Grande, received after he emailed the Budget Chief regarding the bridge:
I now have too many e-mail messages to read each and every one. So my answer will be automatic. Bridge yes but not at any cost. But… does not carry the day. This kind of thinking has caused a great financial problem for the City. We spend more than we bring in and I have to find $774 million.
Post Script- Sat May 14th I visited the area. This bridge will cost 22 + the opportunity to gain 25 million from proper usage of the site. So it will really cost 47 million at the end of the day. Sorry, that is very poor use of limited funds the City has. I also noted that there were a total of 2 people in City park and a few people in the dog park and on the other side of King there was one person. Does not strike me as demand usage, at least not for today.
In addition there is concern about City land which if the bridge is built in a certain fashion will increase the value of City Lands by millions and this cannot be ignored. An overage of 4+ million and other planning considerations does not justify the just spending because it is a nice bridge. What I am more open to is how about a special levy on all those properties to pay for the overage?
I added some paragraph breaks for clarity. Also added some emphasis.
Councillor Del Grande recounts visiting the area where the bridge will be built on Saturday, May 14, which was not a particular nice Saturday in Toronto. At best it was overcast and drizzling. Regardless, he feels observing the area for a brief window on an unpleasant day is enough to declare that there is no “demand usage.”
As Richard Douglas puts it in a follow-up comment to the article on Spacing, “Aside from the poor weather conditions and the muddy, water logged parking lot as deterents did he really expect to see citizens standing at the roped off opening of the parking lots waiting for the bridge to be built?”
If this is the way Del Grande is going to judge the necessity of infrastructure projects, I’d hope he’ll soon pay a visit to Sheppard Avenue to gauge the need for a multi-billion dollar subway project.
Councillor Mike Layton has put a motion on the agenda for this week’s City Council meeting that would, if passed, essentially reverse the earlier decision by the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee to kill the project. It will require a two-thirds majority, which I initially dismissed as an impossible requirement. Layton has been working really hard to get the votes, however.