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John Tory defends SmartTrack plan as campaign to woo voters released

WATCH: John Tory admits the need to ‘tunnel’ in order to complete SmartTrack plan 

TORONTO – John Tory says he will do whatever it takes, even tunneling underground, to complete a portion of the west-end Toronto rail line for his SmartTrack transit plan.

“90 per cent of SmartTrack runs on existing GO train tracks and we knew the part to the west was the part where there are no GO train tracks,” Tory said in an interview with Global News.

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“If that involves tunneling in that area, then we’ll tunnel.  The west end of it will be built because it’s going to make it more complete to the west end of the city, including out to the jobs in Mississauga.”

Tory responded to criticism from fellow mayoral candidate Olivia Chow after she said SmartTrack will take “heavy rail from Mount Dennis to Mississauga” right next to homes that will be built in the area.

“He says he won’t need to buy any properties. He says he won’t go near a street. So how will he get heavy rail from Mount Dennis to Mississauga?” Chow told reporters at the corner of Eglinton Avenue West and Widdicombe Hill Boulevard in Etobicoke Tuesday morning.

Tory said the cost of underground tunneling is already incorporated into the $8 billion price tag to electrify the GO train lines and buying new trains.

“We came up with an estimate per kilometre of construction,” he said.

Tory’s defense of his SmartTrack line comes on the same day he released a television advertisement campaign and an interactive website to convince voters about the benefits of his transit plan.

A digital tool called the ‘SmartTracker’ was launched that allows people to find out how much time it takes for them to travel from one destination to another.

The website claims commute times are estimated to be cut in half for some riders who travel from the west-end of the city towards downtown Toronto and from as far as northeast of Toronto to the city’s core.

“Commuters who live in Scarborough or Etobicoke and work downtown, for instance, who have to transfer from buses onto packed subway platforms, will save 20 or 30 minutes on a one way trip,” Tory said in a media release.

The so-called “SmartTrack” line is a two-way surface subway service Tory says will run all-day from around Pearson Airport in the west-end of the city to all the way northeast to Unionville, Markham.

“The numbers of how long it’s going to take to get from place to place comes from the GO electrification study,” Tory told Global News.

“They were trying to determine themselves in making the decision to electrifying the GO train lines consistent with provincial policy.”

READ MORE: Tory wants to exploit GO Transit lines

Tory says the cost to build and implement the 53 kilometres rail line will be split between the city, the province and the federal government.

“The $8 billion is the capital cost to electrifying the GO train lines, doing the work in the west end, buying the trains,” said Tory.

“The operating cost will be the responsibility of Metrolinx. The concept I’m going to champion with Metrolinx and provincial government is it be fare integrated with the TTC.”

Tory hopes to keep the cost of using the line equivalent to a $3 TTC fare.

Tory’s advertising campaign comes a week after Mayor Rob Ford announced his transit plan for an extensive subway expansion as a main campaign platform in his re-election bid.

READ MORE: Rob Ford to ‘bore’ his subway plan through ‘until the cows come home’

Ford’s plan was largely criticized for being too costly and impractical.

His rapid transit vision would see 32 kilometres of new subways built across the city at a cost of $9 billion.

Meanwhile, Olivia Chow questioned both her adversaries plans based on funding models she says will ultimately lead to property tax increases for Toronto residents.

WATCH: Olivia Chow critical of John Tory’s SmartTrack plan

Chow also criticized how Tory’s SmartTrack plan would be built along routes requiring new infrastructure and the costs that will entail.

The former downtown Toronto federal MP said her transit plan includes spending $15 million to increase bus service, build light rail along Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue and have the Scarborough subway replaced with above ground rail.

With a report from Mark McAllister

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