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Changes to TTC streetcar platforms to cost $58M: Byford

The new TTC low-floor streetcars won’t fit on some right-of-way platforms, including the one on St. Clair, making for more expensive construction on an already controversial route.

“This is not a problem that’s taken us by surprise,” TTC CEO Andy Byford said Monday afternoon.

“We have got money set aside in our capital budget to make changes to the islands,” he said, adding that the total cost for all the islands – not just St. Clair – would be an estimated $58 million.

The money would also be used to make curb cuts to about 700 stops where there isn’t a platform.

Byford said he didn’t know how long the construction would take.

A report in the Toronto Sun suggested that the platforms were too short for the new, longer streetcars, which were commissioned as the St. Clair route was being built, but Byford said the problem was one of accessibility.

“We did not know the specific engineering design of the ramp, which would make the streetcars accessible,” Byford said.

“If the island were too high, the ramp could not be deployed. If the island were too long, the ramp would be too steep,” he said.

Byford said that both the St. Clair and the Roncesvalles right-of-ways were built for the existing streetcars and problems arose after the new cars had been ordered.

The 6.7 kilometre St. Clair right-of-way started construction in 2005 and was supposed to cost $65 million and take only two years to finish.

However, construction dragged – with many businesses complaining the chewed-up streets and lack of parking hurt their bottom line – and costs ballooned.

Phase One between Yonge Street and Bathurst Avenue opened in 2007. But the rest of the project has been plagued by delays, which the TTC blamed on contractors’ scheduling problems.

The right-of-way was finally completed in 2010, at a cost of more than $100 million. The new streetcars were ordered in 2009 and will be on some routes in 2014.

Byford said he “regretted” that further work would be done on the strip.

He wasn’t alone. News of more construction was met with frustration by proprietors. “They should have had all the facts and figures before they started,” said Don Panos, who owns a business on St. Clair. “It’s very poor timing.”

The TTC tested out the low-floor vehicles, built by Bombardier Transportation Canada Inc., earlier this month.

The accessible streetcars will start carrying passengers on the 510 Spadina line early next year and should completely replace the old fleet by 2018.

The cars will be air conditioned, have room for bikes and use Presto card readers. They will hold 251 passengers — 68 more than current streetcars.

The commission will examine the other streetcar routes to determine if changes need to be made on those platforms as well to accommodate the new streetcars, Byford said.