For just over $10 billion, the Chinese have completed the world’s largest airport just south of Beijing that can accommodate almost 200 million passengers a year (Pearson was at 35 million before COVID). The airport was completed in five years and includes a local rail, high speed rail, highway, and subway connection making it into China’s biggest transit hub. The Spanish are well known in Europe for tunneling subways at one of the most affordable levels in the world. The importance of solid infrastructure and good transit options to accommodate housing and real estate construction is critical. Local Toronto transit researcher Stephen Wickens spent years looking at why things are so expensive and take so long to build. His conclusions: “politics, the depth of underground tunnels, the grandiosity of the stations and labour costs.”
CP24 reported that Alon Levy, a Berlin-based transit researcher and writer, calculated that globally, the median construction cost for an urban subway was less than $300 million per kilometre in 2019. Levy believes that Toronto’s Ontario Line should cost $735-million per kilometre. The Blue Line extension plan in Montreal is at $775-million per kilometre. Vancouver’s Broadway SkyTrain seems almost reasonable at nearly $500-million per kilometre. One of the cited reasons for these astronomical costs is that we avoid using the cut and cover method of tunneling subways: avoiding deep tunneling and ripping up roads. This was the way the Yonge Subway was built. We also lack public sector expertise in advising and designing infrastructure projects (because so few of it was built in the late 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. Without aggressive action, cost overruns will continue to cripple our ability to resolve gridlock.