Mississauga and Brampton will be able to start seriously implementing transit plans now that both the federal and provincial government have agreed to send more funds into the region. The cash flow comes as a result of a new bilateral agreement between the upper tier governments that combined, amounts to $31 billion in infrastructure funding for Ontario during the next 10 years.

While funds are earmarked for a variety of infrastructure programs and projects, it’s the money dedicated to public transit that has local government excited.

For Peel Region, combined with local contributions, this means $1 billion in new funding to continue with already launched transit programs.

Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey said her city has experienced an 18 per cent growth in transit ridership in the past year, one of the highest in the country, so the announcement comes as welcome news.

“This pushes us forward as a city,” Jeffrey told The Review. “So having federal and provincial partners working with you, that can build transit that connects, is extremely important … this is historic.”

Specifically, the money will go to increase the inventory of buses, which come at a high cost. But now, she added, this deal will allow Brampton to explore electric vehicles, while also looking at new ways to deal with greenhouse gases.

“It allows us to build our infrastructure,” Jeffrey said. “We are a large city that just keeps growing and any way you can help families and business with transit is a good thing.”

For Mississauga, the announcement not only means the ability to upgrade and repair roads and existing systems, but to look to the future and set its own priorities.

“Most importantly, for us, the long term ability to plan, to know when the funds are scheduled to arrive and to match that to the needs of our transit system and our major transit infrastructure, gives us the ability to focus that investment on the projects that are highest priority for us,” explained Janice Baker, city manager.

As well, she pointed out, under this agreement, the city will be able to set its own agenda and priorities.

“It gives us the ability to decide what is good for us,” she said. “It’s something we have been asking about for a very long time.”

In making the announcement, Amarjeet Sohi, federal infrastructure and communities minister, said aside from transit, other areas targeted for funding include programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Funding is also slated to help build stronger communities and improve social inclusion through culture and recreation funding.

Mississauga Councillor Ron Starr said the commitment of three levels of government working together is an acknowledgment that solutions need to be found to fix basic infrastructure issues. He added, without federal and provincial assistance, the costs of road repairs and solving gridlock is too much of a burden on local taxpayers.

Photo: Representatives of three levels of government gathered in Mississauga to sign an agreement to commit to infrastructure funding opportunities. From the left, Bob Chiarelli, provincial infrastructure minister; Ron Starr, Mississauga councillor and Amarjeet Sohi, federal infrastructure and communities minister.

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