Toronto’s top bureaucrat is recommending that the city allocate $3.8 billion in federal transit funding to two subway projects that the province has proposed extensive changes to but only upon the satisfactory completion of an assessment that will be seek clarity on more than 60 unanswered questions.

City Manager Chris Murray made the recommendation in a 20-page report that was released on Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after Premier Doug Ford’s government unveiled a $28.5 billion plan to build four new transit lines in the GTA.

In the report, Murray says that the city could use some of the $4.897 billion in federal transit funding it has been promised to contribute to the province’s revamped plan for the relief subway line and Line 2 extension but only after an assessment of the changes being proposed by the province is completed and brought before council for further consideration.

Those changes would see the city’s one-stop extension of the Line 2 subway increased to three stops and the relief line doubled in length and delivered using alternate technology.

“It is conditional on all the homework we have identified and us bringing it back to you before we make a decision,” Murray told members of council during a meeting Tuesday.

In his report, Murray says that the city should proceed with work on the council-approved plans for the Line 2 subway extension and the relief line until the assessment of the province’s new vision for the projects is complete.

He said that in order to “minimize throw away costs” associated with that work the city should be undertaking an “expedited assessment,” though he does not offer a timeline for that work.

He also said that the city should also seek reimbursement for any sunk costs associated with a change in scope of the projects. To date, $182.5 million has been spent on work on the Line 2 subway extension and another $15.4 million has been spent on work on the relief line. The report also notes that between $7.5 and $10 million is being spent on the Scarborough subway project each month with another $3.6 million being spent on the city’s relief line plan.

Speaking with reporters at city hall earlier in the day, Tory conceded that changes to the relief line, in particular, mean that the project would be “fundamentally different” than the one that was previously contemplated by the city.

He said that allocating $3.15 billion to the revamped vision for the relief line and $660 million to the new vision for the Scarborough subway extension would be “very much conditional” based on the assessment that will be conducted by staff.

“It is not as if we are writing a cheque to somebody. We are merely reaffirming something that has been said for a very long time which is that the priority project for the majority of this money is a relief line,” he said. “We always said it was the relief line as we conceived of it. There is now a second proposal and we have said well we should go to the table and find out if this is in fact someway better than the relief line we proposed.”

Report lists 61 unanswered questions

The province has said that it will contribute $11.2 billion to the four projects included in its transit network plan with the remaining $17.3 billion in needed funds coming from other levels of government.

The staff report says that before any money is allocated to the new proposals for the Scarborough subway and the relief subway line, numerous questions need to be answered.

The report, in fact, contains 61 questions about the nature of the changes proposed by the province, including “who prepared the cost estimates?,” and “have they been peer-reviewed/validated by a third party.”

“The City and TTC have been requesting the province to provide further details on their proposals since last year, including more recently through ongoing correspondence and meetings under the Terms of Reference for the Realignment of Transit Responsibilities,” the staff report notes.