Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty has unveiled $9 billion in spending on public transit for five major projects in the Greater Toronto Area.

"The projects we are announcing today are only a start. Together, we are taking a big step towards our broad vision for regional transit for the GTA," McGuinty told a news conference in Vaughan on Wednesday.

"It's the most ambitious project of its kind in Canadian history -- it's big, it's bold and I'm proud to say, that today, in earnest, we are getting started," he said.

"This will profoundly change the future for all Torontonians, this couldn't be more significant," Mayor David Miller said at the announcement.

"It is so important to the economic vitality of Toronto and of the businesses. When you build rail-based transit, you get direct private-sector investment and private-sector development."

The initiatives include:

  • More buses, stations and dedicated bus lanes for York Region's VIVA bus rapid transit
  • Upgrading and expanding the Scarborough Rapid Transit line to the Malvern town centre
  • Building a rapid transit line from Kennedy station in Scarborough right across the city to Pearson International Airport
  • a new rapid transit line along Finch Avenue West from the Yonge subway line to Highway 27 and Humber College, and eastward to Don Mills station

There will also be a feasibility study for Hamilton Rapid Transit.

Miller said in the 2006 mayoral election, Torontonians gave him a mandate to pursue "comfortable, rapid and reliable rapid transit to every corner of the city."

In 2007, the Toronto Transit Commission unveiled its Transit City plan for an extensive network of light-rail transit, he said. That plan calls for seven lines and 122 kilometres of light-rail transit across the city.

"Today, I am so pleased and proud to see this vision become reality because of the leadership and vision of Premier Dalton McGuinty and his government," Miller said.

Transit City has gone quickly through the planning process and is ready to begin construction, he said.

The project will help social justice, the environment and the economy, he said.

"It means that no longer will,someone who lives in northeast Scarborough and works in southwest Etobicoke have to spend hours taking four different modes of transportation to get from A to B," he said. "They'll be able to navigate the city and the region quickly, economically and reliably."

Rapid transit will take cars off the road and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

This will reduce gridlock, thus helping business. It will also create more opportunities for growth, Miller said.

In its news release, the province said, "Accelerating transit projects is a key goal of the recently proposed merger of Metrolinx and GO Transit."

Construction on the Viva project will begin in 2009. The completion date is scheduled for 2013.

Miller said the Toronto projects would cost about $7 billion.

The Scarborough RT line is expected to be completed by 2015. Toronto estimates the cost at $1.4 billion.

The announcement didn't set a deadline for the $4.6-billion, 31-kilometre Eglinton rail line, which will include a 13-kilometre underground section from Leslie to Keele Streets.

The $1.2-billion, Finch LRT will start construction in 2010, with completion scheduled for 2013.

Detailed cost estimates for each individual project will be made available closer to their start dates, the province said.

"The projects are subject to environmental and other approvals," the province's news release said, adding, "This is a major step toward the McGuinty government's goal of funding $11.5 billion in transit projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area."

However, CTV Toronto's John Musselman noted the province has taken steps to streamline its environmental approval process.

With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman