In this continuing series about the Hurontario-Main LRT surface debate, I would like to pick apart a specific option that would cost this city a lot and for barely anything.
Of the 11 options available to route the LRT north of Steeles, three are viable. One is the default surface alignment.
The Problem with Tunnels
Two of them involve tunnels. One would involve a tunnel from just south of Nanwood to the GO station, requiring an underground stop at Nanwood, downtown, and probably the GO station (though that is unclear). The second option is for a tunnel portal north of a Nanwood surface stop.
The estimated cost for this option is from $380 million to $500 million. This is an incredible cost for a one kilometre tunnel to avoid sharing track space in downtown Brampton's historic Main Street. The average cost of a subway/LRT tunnel is about $300 million per kilometre.
The province's $1.6 billion funding pledge to the LRT is only for TPAP, studied-to-death option. Brampton will most likely not be able to re-appropriate the roughly $106 million ($60 million per kilometre) cost of the surface route to a tunnel route. The LRT would probably stop at Steeles for the time being, and if Brampton chose to extend, even by the surface, that money will probably gone from the pot, funding another one of the Big Move Next Wave projects that hasn't been funded (and not likely our Queen Street line).
In fact, the cost of the EA and TPAP for the tunnel would have to funded solely by the city. The tunnel construction and whatever stations we want would become our responsibility. We don't want disruptive cut and cover for our LRT subway? Well, then Brampton need will either have to buy, or hope to rent a tunnel boring machine. And keep in mind that you have to build stations from cut and cover as well. In a sense, tunnelling our north end is more disruptive than general surface construction.
Oh? One last thing: we have to pay for this ourselves. Hello, property rate increase!
What happens to Queen?
There's another hidden cost to tunnelling the Main Street LRT, one that's not apparent.
Metrolinx's Big Move long term plan calls for four rapid transit lines within Brampton's boundaries. One is the electrification and all-day service on the Kitchener GO line. Hurontario-Main is the first phase of effectively local rapid transit. Long term, the HM LRT is supposed to be extended to Mayfield. There is also a plan for Steeles rapid transit option, though that's much later in the future.
The next major project within the same funding wave as the first chunk of the HM LRT, is a Queen Street rapid transit line, of which they haven't chosen the technology yet (you can read the business case analysis here). The line is supposed to connect Downtown Brampton to the VIVA Bus Rapid Transit project on Highway 7 in York Region, and possibly the Spadina Subway Extension.
The dilemma with tunnelling Main is that it affects how the Queen line will connect to it. If an LRT is chosen for Queen, connecting to Main on the surface is probably as simple as creating an LRT T-section at Queen and Main. If Main is tunnelled, however, it's likely that a downtown portion of Queen, probably from the railway corridor underpass, will have to be tunnelled too.
This will cost money. If the province want to the Queen line as well, a tunnel, no matter how short, might raise an alarm bell over costs. This might invoke the "cheapening" of where a rapid transit project get downgraded. Queen might end up with BRT instead, where it would be cheaper to run in the downtown portion.
(The cheapening often to BRT projects, where instead of dedicated lanes like the VIVA rapidways or the Mississauga Transitway, the project gets lines that are effectively like the current configuration of Zum.)
What could $380 million buy us?