Province accepts Initial Business Case for Brampton’s downtown LRT expansion, but will not commit to $3B tunnel  
(Feature image of downtown Brampton rendering from Metrolinx)

Province accepts Initial Business Case for Brampton’s downtown LRT expansion, but will not commit to $3B tunnel  

The provincial PC government recently announced its Get It Done Act and has declared two extensions of the Hazel McCallion LRT line, which was supposed to open this year, as “priority transit projects” ahead of the next provincial election in two years.

While Mississauga’s position on the recently announced LRT additions is relatively simple—it demanded the restoration of its downtown train loop which Doug Ford cancelled shortly after first being elected, and the City’s wish has been granted—Brampton’s situation is much murkier.

After the city’s council rejected the Hurontario/Main LRT route chosen by provincial transit agency Metrolinx in 2015, Patrick Brown was elected in 2018 and demanded the portion of LRT to run into Brampton’s city centre go underground through a tunnel. His mentor, late Ontario premier Bill Davis, whose family house is still on Main Street, did not want to see a train directly in front of the home. After receiving support from Davis to get elected mayor, Brown has been determined to avoid a surface LRT option that would run along Main Street, where he also lives.



A rendering from a decade ago shows an LRT at Kennedy Road and Queen Street in Brampton, depicting the potential of a major transit corridor to draw billions of dollars in investment to finally create a true downtown in the city. 



But the tunnel option supported by the current council, under pressure from Brown, would cost at least $2.8 billion, compared to a $933 million surface alignment for a light rail segment that is only about four kilometres in length. Metrolinx has made it clear in the past that taxpayers should not be expected to pay exorbitant amounts for high order transit projects unless there is a practical justification for excessive per-kilometre costs that are out of line with other projects. 

In response to questions about a funding timeline, whether the PC government will commit to fund Brampton’s $2.8 billion tunnel alignment (it could cost much more than that by the time construction begins, especially if common delays in subsurface LRT work arise) or if funding would only cover the costs of a much cheaper surface alignment, Dakota Brasier, Senior Communications Advisor and Press Secretary at the Ministry of Transportation, told The Pointer in an email that the MTO has “received the Business Case from Metrolinx, which includes all options, and will be reviewing them in the coming weeks.”

A subsurface alignment would address concerns around maintaining the heritage of Brampton’s downtown, but it remains unclear if the Province will commit to its price tag. The staff report to Brampton council recommending the tunnel alignment advance through the provincial Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) states that in its discussions with the agency, Metrolinx grouped the LRT extension in its “High” prioritization category but stated “Metrolinx did note that the prioritization was based on a surface alignment and that the increased cost for the tunnel alignment may negatively impact the preliminary benefit cost ratio.” Metrolinx did not indicate whether this would affect the prioritization, the report notes, stating that “[t]o date, the project remains in the ‘High’ category.” 

Complicating the matter is Brown’s failure to get required work done to determine the feasibility of the Main Street route or a tunnel alignment. He has refused to plan for needed flood mitigation work on the Etobicoke Creek corridor, as his repeated budget cuts have crippled infrastructure investments across the city. No environmental assessment for his tunnel option has been done.

He has also failed to budget any money that would be needed for local costs to support the LRT such as surface upgrades, traffic-related work and other enhancements to support higher order transit that are not covered by the provincial government. These could cost tens of millions of dollars.  

The province has five existing priority transit projects, including the Ontario Line subway in Toronto, the Yonge North Subway Extension, the Scarborough Subway Extension, the Eglinton Crosstown West LRT Extension and the Hamilton LRT, with the two Hazel McCallion Line extensions (the Mississauga downtown loop and the Brampton Main Street city centre alignment) now being officially added to the list. Prior to the recent commitment, the LRT was set to run north through Mississauga along Hurontario Street into the southern end of Brampton before turning around at Steeles Avenue. The original plan was for it to continue along Main Street, north of Steeles (where the name changes from Hurontario) into Brampton’s city centre, but that portion was rejected in 2015 when a majority of councillors at the time argued Main Street could not support enough ridership for an LRT, the Etobicoke Creek corridor posed too many problems including a lack of residential and commercial development opportunities and the area’s historic character would be negatively impacted. They voted for an alternative LRT route into downtown either immediately east or west of Main Street, along one of the much busier corridors that are more appropriate for high order transit investment. But the province pulled its funding.

In 2018, newly elected councillors who had supported the Main Street option had the votes to put it back on the table, but Brown, who has made no secret of his loyalty to Davis, convinced them to get behind a tunnel through the historic section that begins just south of downtown, as a compromise. He claimed almost six years ago that he had received commitments from higher levels of government to fund the tunnel, but never provided evidence of this and the money never materialized as the project remained on the backburner. 

Now, the PCs have committed to it once again, but have not yet decided on a tunnel or surface alignment. It’s unclear if Brown will reject a surface plan, if that is the only option Metrolinx puts on the table.

Another concern is the way the PCs are pushing projects ahead of the 2026 election, especially in jurisdictions where their support might waver. 

Ford has continuously mentioned Bonnie Crombie, the recently elected Ontario Liberal leader and wildly popular former Mississauga mayor, when speaking publicly over the past few weeks. Sources have told The Pointer that the six current incumbent PC MPPs in Mississauga and the five in Brampton have voiced their concern over the looming 2026 election, after Crombie’s victory and Ford’s decision shortly after to scrap the legislation that triggered the break up of Peel Region by 2025—which was supposed to give Mississauga and Brampton their independence—a move that angered many voters. While Brown made repeated claims that the break up would cost taxpayers dearly, he has refused to make public the third-party consultant reports that he claimed backed up his unsubstantiated assertions, which were used by Ford to justify the cancellation of plans to give Mississauga and Brampton their independence. 

Critics said all of it was a political move to weaken Crombie, who aggressively pushed for Mississauga’s independence. Shortly after, Ford announced the restoration of the Mississauga downtown LRT loop, which he had previously cancelled, and the Brampton extension.

According to a news release, if the Get it Done Act is passed, it will “allow Ontario to reduce red tape and streamline approval processes for key infrastructure investments to help get shovels in the ground sooner and save taxpayer dollars.” However, as previously reported by The Pointer, it is actually posed to weaken the province’s environmental protections and speed through the construction of major infrastructure projects without taking the time to carry out proper analyses.   

The release of the Get it Done Act comes after Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister of Transportation and a Brampton PC MPP, issued a deadline for an initial business case in early February to plan for the reintroduction of the downtown Mississauga loop and the extension of the LRT line into downtown Brampton in a letter to Metrolinx CEO and President Phil Verster in January. 

“Ontario has accepted the initial business case for the expansion of the Hazel McCallion LRT and is moving forward with this important project,” the Province stated in a news release on February 8. 

Brasier told The Pointer in an email that “[b]oth proposed extensions are in the early stages of planning,” and that “[n]ext steps include further planning and design work, municipal engagement, and a commercial strategy before further details such as timelines, scope, and total costs can be determined.” 

“Bill 162, if passed, will prescribe the Hazel McCallion Line extensions to downtown Mississauga and downtown Brampton as ‘priority transit projects,’ which will use measures in the Building Transit Faster Act, to streamline and speed up construction.” She explained that “priority transit projects under the BTFA are able to use accelerated measures, including the municipal right-of way and utility coordination measures to help expedite the construction of transit projects of provincial significance, including these extension projects.”

The request for an Initial Business Case was due to the Minister by February 5 and had to include plans to attract bids from private partners in order to facilitate the construction of the Mississauga loop and Brampton extension. It also had to include projected costs for the two expansions and “market-driven funding strategies to ensure best value for taxpayers.” 

While the deadline has passed with the Province accepting the IBC, a funding commitment for the two expansions has not been released. In an email to The Pointer, the City of Brampton confirmed that it has “not yet received any details from the province on the scope of the project, including funding.”

“The City of Brampton welcome’s the provinces commitment to complete the Hazel McCallion LRT into downtown Brampton and Transportation Minister Sarkaria’s recent direction to Metrolinx to proceed with the development of an initial business plan along with a strategy to go to market for bids to build both the Brampton extension and Mississauga loop,” the City of Brampton’s response details.

Brampton council officially advanced the tunnel alignment and has submitted its application for approval through the provincial TPAP in January, which, once completed and approved by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP), will allow for project documents to be be forwarded to Metrolinx, “so the LRT Extension can move forward with the detailed design, construction and implementation phases once funding is received,” as stated in a Brampton staff report. It recommended the City “continue with its funding advocacy efforts with federal and provincial officials and that staff monitor the status of various federal and provincial infrastructure programs and if/when appropriate, submit applications to fund the extension of the Hazell McCallion LRT from Steeles to Downtown Brampton.” The City is seeking $1.4 billion from the federal government and another $1.4 billion from the provincial government to support the cost of the tunnel option. The cost could rise considerably if the tunnel is approved for future construction. The price, at more than a billion dollars per-kilometre of tunnel, is three to four times more than what LRTs typically cost when built at surface level. 


Brampton’s Council, under Patrick Brown’s heavy-handed leadership, is in favour of a $2.8 billion tunnel alignment for its extension of the Hurontario LRT into downtown and recently voted to advance the tunnel option through the provincial TPAP process.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Under Brown, Brampton has suffered from hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts, resulting in cancellations of projects to revitalize Brampton’s struggling downtown and delays to critical flood mitigation work, with much of its city centre being under provincial designation as a Special Policy Area (SPA) and therefore restricted in development opportunities because it is situated in a floodplain. 

“Projects of this nature that are constructed in the GTHA, receive all or the vast majority of their funding from higher levels of government, including the Yonge Subway Extension in York Region, Kitchener-Waterloo ION LRT, Scarborough Subway in Toronto, and the Hamilton LRT,” a spokesperson for the City told The Pointer in an email. “As one of the fastest-growing large cities in Canada seeing transit ridership up 160 [percent] from 2009-2019 and a 30 [percent] ridership rebound post-COVID, the City of Brampton continues to advocate to both the provincial and federal levels of government to fund 100 [percent] of the LRT Extension into downtown Brampton as well as the Queen Street – Highway 7 BRT projects.”

The Hazel McCallion line has seen years of delays, and while it pushed the scheduled completion date from 2022 to 2024, the Province will not confirm if it will still meet this most recent deadline

The PC government announced a $4.6 billion contract in fall of 2019 to Mobilinx, a consortium of companies brought together to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Hurontario LRT over a period of 30 years, but Doug Ford’s government had scrapped the downtown LRT loop in Mississauga that same year. The year after, construction began on the project and now the Mississauga loop has been ordered to be reintroduced, planned to travel around City Hall, Square One Shopping Mall and the surrounding commercial district and returning back to Hurontario Street, although it is unclear why the decision was reversed (Ford’s government had cut the loop citing increased costs of the project).

Mississauga’s expansion to its LRT extension will involve an added two-kilometre-loop, although a funding amount to cover this has not been shared. Brampton will have an almost four-kilometre extension of the line from its previous end point, Brampton Gateway Terminal, into downtown via Main Street, yet questions remain around whether the province will invest in the tunnel alignment Council is asking for. 

“Underground alignments require a significantly larger budget, longer construction time, and more disruption to Brampton businesses and residents, so focusing on that approach can lead to lost opportunities,” Cameron MacLeod, Executive Director of CodeRedTO, told The Pointer. He said that if “designed properly for effective and reliable travel,” a surface alignment could support business activity in downtown Brampton sooner than a tunnel. “An underground alignment prioritizes faster vehicle movement and a future larger Brampton downtown, but at a cost. It's not just construction cost, it's also ongoing operations—all those elevators and escalators and lights and security and staff required for underground tunnels and stations would have a significant impact on the City of Brampton's budget too.” 


Screencap of renderings from the January 17 staff presentation to council depicting segments of the preferred underground option of Bramptons Hurontario LRT extension through downtown Brampton.

(City of Brampton) 

MacLeod raised concern over whether that cost is "worth it", questioning who will pay for those added construction and operational fees. 

“What if there are delays and project costs increase? Will Brampton's downtown grow rapidly enough for underground to make sense, or is it only about protecting private car access to downtown streets? These are important questions that will help balance the options.”  

In the January staff report recommending advancement of the tunnel through the provincial TPAP process, the underground option was highlighted as having “distinct benefits for a vibrant downtown” with little detail or explanation of how this would differ from a surface option. 

The report states this option would save time by moving from Steeles Avenue to Downtown Brampton in around 7 minutes and that it would be “easier to extend the line further north along Main Street as intensification builds north of Downtown Brampton,” and would be “reliable compared to a surface alignment as all of the supporting infrastructure is underground.” There were no details or explanations to support these assertions and Metrolinx, which has expertise Brampton does not have (the City has never dealt with a subsurface rail corridor and its transit system only uses buses), has not yet weighed in. The staff report also states the tunnel alignment option would “allow for active transportation infrastructure to be placed directly on Main Street,” without diversions, supporting the City’s priority of seeking to facilitate more active transportation by building a corridor from Port Credit to Downtown Brampton for active modes of travel.

“Peak ridership will increase by at least 5 [percent] over the surface alignment,” the report states, arguing that it is likely this ridership will be higher “given the increased housing now being planned for Downtown Brampton,” in its case for the preferred underground option. Again, staff failed to explain how this would be different compared to a surface alignment and failed to provide detailed analysis to justify the five percent increase. 

Completion of construction of the Hurontario LRT was delayed from 2022 to 2024, but Metrolinx will not confirm if this most recent deadline will be met.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Despite Council’s endorsement of the tunnel alignment, some residents still feel the surface option makes more sense and is a better use of their tax dollars.

“It would be financially reckless to spend an extra 2 billion dollars (or more) just to tunnel it when it would actually slow down service times (have to add the time to walk up stairs to your commute after all),” resident and local lawyer Wesley Jackson, who ran for mayor in 2018, wrote in a response to The Pointer. “And that’s on top of having to pay for the ongoing additional maintenance of elevators or escalators and underground station infrastructure.”  

Jackson said he believes there is “so much good that could be done with that extra $2 Billion,” and that this amount could be spent toward other critical projects like building the Riverwalk that he said Brampton needs “in order for any redevelopment to actually happen downtown.” 

“Putting more money than we have into one project (a project that only makes sense if every other project is completed), is not logical when it means there would be no money (for decades) for those other projects,” he said. He also highlighted the time it would take to build a surface, likely less than the tunnel, and said the LRT project has already been delayed for too long. “It's been almost 9 years since the surface LRT was conceived, and [it's] not built yet. How fast do they think it will take to build this tunnel through a flood plain? It won't happen overnight. And in the meantime, downtown Brampton continues to degrade. The surface route will be faster and more cost effective.”

Former Brampton resident Cameron Reeve Barclay also wrote in a response to The Pointer that he believes it would likely be “quicker and more efficient” to keep the alignment on the surface. “A main concern during the initial consultation seemed to be that it would not fit in with the heritage buildings of downtown Brampton, but this seems to be a much less important consideration now, with Brampton’s population growth and the potential benefit to local businesses by having greater connectivity within peel region,” he wrote. 

Others are supportive of the tunnel.

“We are a city of 700,000 people—going to be 900,000 people—we need to have a proper mobility hub,” Chris Bejnar, a downtown resident who co-founded Citizens For a Better Brampton, told The Pointer. “We need to have this done properly, not haphazardly, [with the] cheapest option and then look back [in] 10 years like ‘what did we do?’”

He said Brampton has “been given so little for the last few years, while everybody else is getting so much” and that the city deserves to get funding for a tunnel alignment of its LRT extension, regardless of the cost. He questioned why Brampton should be “forced to get the cheapest option,” referring to the $933 million surface alignment the City considered against the $2.8 billion tunnel, and said he believes the surface alignment would “ruin Main Street, ruin our downtown with overhead wires [and] shared access,” and that a tunnel would avoid a “big construction mess along Main Street.”


Residents of both Brampton and Mississauga will need to be supported through transit infrastructure if the two cities are to move toward urbanization and away from their suburban beginnings.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


“Yes, it's more expensive. But also it's the only option that can unite everyone,” he said, saying that Brown and the current council have kept the tunnel option “alive” since his election. 

Regarding the surface alignment, Bejnar said it is “not good enough to handle the future growth of our city. It's not good enough to create a proper downtown mobility hub.” With the plans for other transit infrastructure in the area—the City is planning for a Transit Hub in its downtown—he said there is the opportunity “to create something pretty good.” 

“If we combine everything…that's an exciting project that can really attract and get people excited about downtown.”


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