Eglinton Crosstown LRT will be delayed by about a year, source says

·5 min read
An Eglinton Crosstown test vehicle is loaded onto the tracks on Eglinton Avenue. Metrolinx says the public transit line won't be ready this fall as expected because the consortium building it has 'fallen behind schedule.' A source has told CBC Toronto it won't be ready for about a year. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC - image credit)
An Eglinton Crosstown test vehicle is loaded onto the tracks on Eglinton Avenue. Metrolinx says the public transit line won't be ready this fall as expected because the consortium building it has 'fallen behind schedule.' A source has told CBC Toronto it won't be ready for about a year. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC - image credit)

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT will be delayed by about a year, a source with knowledge of the project has told CBC Toronto.

The 19-kilometre light rapid transit line was to be up and running by the end of this year.

The source says the major issues causing the delay are related to construction of underground stations, particularly at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. Most of the underground stations are behind schedule.

At Yonge and Eglinton, the delay is due to the difficult engineering involved in digging and building under the existing subway station, the source says.

The source says the very earliest that the line could be operational is about a year from now. Metrolinx, the regional transit agency in charge of the project, doesn't want to launch the service with many issues unresolved, the source says.

In a statement on Metrolinx's website on Friday, president and CEO Phil Verster said the Eglinton Crosstown is delayed and will not be in operation this fall as expected. He did not provide a new date for the launch of the service.

"We had expected the Eglinton Crosstown LRT to be fully built, thoroughly tested, and in service this fall in accordance with our project agreement with Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the construction consortium responsible for building the project," Verster said in the statement.

"Unfortunately, while progress has been made, Crosslinx Transit Solutions have fallen behind schedule, are unable to finalize construction and testing, and therefore the system will not be operational on this timeline."

Project began in 2011

The line is to run along Eglinton Avenue with 25 stops from Kennedy in the east to Mount Dennis in the west.

It has been under construction since 2011 and has had its opening date pushed back several times. It was scheduled to open in 2020 when the project was first announced, then 2021. In early 2020, Metrolinx pushed the opening date to late this year.

CBC
CBC

Verster said he realizes that construction has taken its toll on commuters, communities and businesses along the route.

"We are doing everything to hold Crosslinx Transit Solutions accountable and to redouble efforts to meet their commitments and complete the work quickly so we can welcome riders onto a complete, tested, and fully operational Eglinton Crosstown LRT as soon as possible."

On its website, Metrolinx still says: "The Crosstown will open as Line 5 Eglinton, in 2022."

CBC Toronto has reached out to Metrolinx for further comment, but the agency has declined the request. Crosslinx has yet to answer an email CBC News sent Friday evening requesting a response to the Metrolinx statement.

Project mismanaged, city councillor says

Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul's, said it's not surprising that Metrolinx has finally confirmed that the project is delayed.

"Their mismanagement of this project has real-life consequences for both residents, who have been living through a nightmare in their communities waiting for the construction to be completed, and small businesses, many of which have actually lost their businesses while they have been waiting for this to be done," Matlow said.

He said Metrolinx and the Ontario government should immediately tell residents and business owners along the Eglinton corridor how they'll improve their quality of life and save the businesses that are still alive.

"We all want transit. Transit is the dream," he added.

"But the construction of this project has been a nightmare. Metrolinx and the province of Ontario need to take responsibility for their mismanagement."

Paul Borkwood/CBC
Paul Borkwood/CBC

Matlow said Metrolinx and the government treat people and businesses as "collateral damage" while they are building transit projects.

"If you were a nearby resident, you have lived for a decade with vibration, noise, traffic, congestion, drivers using your street as the one way to get wherever they are going," he said.

He said Metrolinx and the government need to manage their transit projects better.

"I am deeply hopeful that the nightmare that the province and Metrolinx have created on Eglinton doesn't repeat itself through all the neighbourhoods where they are going to build the Ontario Line eventually," he said, referring to the 15.6-kilometre rapid transit line that will connect the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place.

Construction 'brutal' for local areas, mayor says

Mayor John Tory, for his part, said in a statement on Friday that the Eglinton Crosstown needs to open as soon as possible.

"While this massive project, when it does open will be a huge step forward for transit in Toronto and while I do take heart from the evident progress on stations and from seeing vehicles actually being tested, the more than a decade of construction has been absolutely brutal for residents, businesses, and commuters along Eglinton Avenue right across our city," Tory said in the statement.

"I'll be reaching out to Metrolinx on behalf of the people of Toronto to share my frustration with these construction delays and to strongly urge them to do everything possible to finish this project and get the Crosstown open."

CBC
CBC

Maureen Sirois, chair of The Eglinton Way BIA, said the delay is "so disappointing" because it means the streets will not be open for another year.

"This isn't the first delay. This is like the third delay, and they keep pushing that date further and further down the calendar and we are still standing here with construction. It's ridiculous," she said.

Sirois said businesses that are less visible and accessible have been hit harder than others not behind construction hoarding, fencing and barriers. But accessibility, visibility, parking, debris on the roads, noise, dirt and dust continue to be problems, she said.

"We do not have that accessibility for our customers to come and shop," she said. "There's no reason that it's taking this long. It's been very hard on the businesses."

Sirois urged Toronto residents to keep supporting local businesses.

According to Shelagh Pizey-Allen, spokesperson for advocacy group TTCriders, the delay highlights the need for more transparency.

"These private partnerships aren't working," she said.

"They're secretive, they cost the public more, there's been delays, and that's why TTCriders is asking all city council candidates if they'll make a commitment to have all new projects be public."