Mississauga councillors push for LRT loop as Metrolinx says line will be ready by end of 2024
Just three years since construction began on the Hurontario light-rail transit line, the provincial transit agency says the 18-kilometre route connecting Mississauga to Brampton will be ready by the end of next year — but Mississauga councillors are pushing for it to be expanded further.
Renamed the Hazel McCallion Line last year, the line is set to have 19 stops and offer connections to multiple other transit routes.
But calls are growing for the province to fund a downtown loop that would connect Square One, city hall and a large swath of the downtown — a high-density area with dozens of residential towers.
"It's time right now to add the loop back in, as the project is progressing and while shovels are in the ground," said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
It's not the first time the route has been suggested. A downtown loop was nixed from the final plan before construction began.
Crombie says there are about 25 towers downtown today, but the city will see an another 25 towers in the next five years. On top of that, she says, the downtown population is expected to double in Mississauga in the next 20 years.
At a news conference naming the line in February 2022, Premier Doug Ford that his goal was for the province to support adding a loop "eventually, sooner than later," but was vague on details.
Asked for an update this week, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation did not provide a clear commitment on the loop.
"We will continue to consider all requests, including the Mississauga City Centre transit loop, as we have throughout the planning and procurement phases of the project," the ministry told CBC News in a statement.
But Crombie said she's taking Ford's words last year as a verbal commitment.
"Now is the right time," she said.
No loop 'defeats purpose'
Coun. Dipika Damerla agrees.
Damerla, who represents Ward 7 downtown, says there is unlimited height and density in the area, with several existing and future towers more than 60 storeys tall, she said.
Councillors made decisions to allow unlimited heights assuming the loop would occur, she added.
"The whole point of intensification and transit-oriented building was to take people off cars," she said. "It really defeats the purpose of having transit if you're not connecting it to that downtown node."
Some councillors in wards that have seen LRT construction since 2020 welcome the news that things are progressing well, but say the process has been hard on residents.
"It will be nice to see the finished project, but the stress involved for the community has been and continues to be significant," said Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko.
He says the construction work has been bad for traffic and small businesses along Hurontario in particular.
"Big construction is never a good thing…They'll be happy when the construction is finished." he said.
Eglinton Crosstown delays sow seeds of doubt
Not all councillors are confident the city should take Metrolinx's word for it that the project will be on time, given substantial delays in LRT projects in other cities.
Damerla says she's hopeful residents in her ward will be tapping on at the end of 2024, but if that's not the case, she expects better communication that Eglinton residents received in Toronto.
"[We need] clear communication if there's going to be a delay, and communicate the reason for the delay. And then, communicate what the province is doing to fix the delay," she said.
Ward 2 councillor Alvin Tedjo, who sits on Mississauga's transit advisory committee, is hesitant too.
"Maybe we shouldn't set the expectation that they're going to be able to get on to LRT by the end of December next year," he said during the discussion period in the council chambers on April 26.
Metrolinx has said "substantial completion" is slated for late 2024, but Tedjo says he is concerned testing could take longer than is planned.
"We have to set this expectation so that people are viewing this project positively and that they know that there's a long timeline, so that when we get into the challenges that Toronto has gotten into with a number of their projects, it is part of the expected timeline," he said.
Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said while Mississauga's LRT has had some challenges along the way, in large part it has "gone really well."
Verster tried to distance the Hurontario project from the Eglinton Crosstown, saying the latter had its own unique challenges and it doesn't make sense to compare the projects.
There were major differences between the projects in the way utilities needed to be moved or re-located and how stations and stops were built, given the Eglinton crosstown included more than 10 kilometres underground, he said.
"They've got different contractors, different challenges."