TORONTO -- The Ontario government has issued a formal request for proposals (RFP) for the tunneling work on the Scarborough subway extension, a move that Mayor John Tory says is a “welcome next step” for a project that was first approved by city council back in 2013.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement alongside Associate Minister of Transportation Kinga Surma on Tuesday afternoon, noting that it was finally time for Scarborough to get its “full share of the pie” when it comes to transit.

He said that the province will invite three teams that were part of the request for qualifications process to participate in the RFP, beginning on Thursday. Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will then award the tunneling contract to the chosen group by mid-2021.

The contract for the rest of the work related to the subway extension will be awarded separately at a later date as part of an effort to expedite work on the project.

“My brother Rob absolutely loved the people of Scarborough and no issue was more important to Rob than delivering rapid underground transit to the people of Scarborough,” Ford said of the late Toronto mayor, who first proposed the three-stop subway extension. “Rob was a true champion for delivering subways to Scarborough and after years of work we are finally making huge, huge progress and as sure as I am standing here today we are going to deliver the full three-stop subway.”

A three-stop, 6.2 kilometre extension of Line 2 from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Town Centre was first approved by city council back in 2013 after then mayor Rob Ford pushed for the cancellation of a fully-funded light rail transit network.

The project, however, was later scaled back in 2017 to include just one station amid rising costs.

Ford then revived the full three-stop vision as part of a $28.5 billion plan to build four new subway lines in the Greater Toronto Area. The new line will travel eight kilometres from Kennedy Station to a new terminus at Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road.

“There are 650,000 people (in Scarborough) sharing two-and-a-half subway stations. You have Kennedy (Station), you have Warden (Station) and then you have Victoria Park (Station) right on the border. That has been my beef all along,” Ford said on Tuesday. “The people are working their backs off. Imagine you are living out by the zoo and you want to get employment downtown. It will take you an hour-and-a-half if you get on public transit, that is three hours out of your day. Now we are going to build a system that can get people from Point A to Point B a lot quicker.”

Officials with the Ford government have said that the Scarborough subway extension will provide 38,000 people with walking distance access to rapid transit once completed.

They have also estimated that there will be 105,000 additional daily boardings on Line 2 by 2041 as a result of the expansion.

“I thank the Premier for continuing to push this project forward,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement released following Ford’s announcement. “This is a welcome next step that will make sure we have shovels in the ground as soon as possible to get this long-awaited project completed.”