01/23/2012 05:06 EST | Updated 03/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Eglinton LRT should be 'at grade' where possible

The TTC chair has reignited a debate over whether it makes sense to bury the entire portion of the planned Eglinton Avenue light-rail line, when a partially buried line would free up funds for other transit improvements.

Karen Stintz says that if an LRT system is indeed built along Eglinton Avenue, it should only be buried in places where it is absolutely necessary to do so.

“The LRT technology is designed to be at grade,” Stintz told CBC News on Monday.

“And so if we stay with the LRT technology, then it does make sense to have it be at grade in the part of the city where there is sufficient road widths to carry the capacity.”

Surface route would save money

Furthermore, if money can be saved by putting a portion of the Eglinton line on the surface, Stintz says that money should be used to fund improvements to the Sheppard subway.

“My position has been consistent since June: if we can free up money on Eglinton and use it toward Sheppard, then I think that might be something that we should look at,” Stintz said.

Originally, the plan was to have the Eglinton LRT only partially buried. But that changed when Mayor Rob Ford took office and struck a deal with the province to put it fully underground.

Stintz says that going back to the original plan could cut the Eglinton LRT price tag by $1 billion.

Transit advocate Steve Munro said Stintz isn't the first to suggest spreading a portion of the $8.2 billion currently earmarked for Eglinton across other transit lines.

“It’s really hard to have a mayor who ran on a platform of respect for taxpayers’ dollars, who is prepared to let the province spend over $2 billion, totally unnecessarily, to put the Eglinton line underground,” Munro told CBC News.

Stintz has already drawn support from Coun. Josh Matlow, who tweeted Monday that he supports her efforts to find “a fiscally responsible plan to expand & improve Toronto’s rapid transit system NOW.”

Coun. John Parker has also gone on record saying the LRT should be on the surface outside the downtown core.