'Another unacceptable delay tactic:' Consortium behind Eglinton Crosstown construction plans to sue
Published Tuesday, May 16, 2023 8:54AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 16, 2023 4:20PM EDT
The group of construction companies responsible for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is planning to sue, Metrolinx says.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Metrolinx said Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS) informed the government agency of its intention to litigate and stop working with the TTC, which will be responsible for operating the line when it’s up and running.
“This is another unacceptable delay tactic by CTS at a time when they should be submitting a credible schedule to Metrolinx for completing the project,” Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster said in a statement. “CTS’s behaviour continues to be disappointing, especially for our Toronto communities who have been waiting patiently for the completion of this project.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the TTC said their operators remain ready to train as soon as construction is completed and that it has not been notified of any legal action against them.
The development comes amid a lack of clarity about when the project will actually be finished.
Last month, Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney -- who said she was "extremely dissapointed" by the news during question period Tuesday -- explained CTS has yet to deliver a “credible schedule” for the line’s completion. Shovels first went into the ground in 2011.
The opening of the $5.5 billion project was initially set for 2020.
Delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues have pushed the project back a number of times with a reported opening date now slated for 2024.
This isn’t the first time Crosslinx has filed a lawsuit in connection with the project. Crosslinx sued Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario in the past, saying they should not be held responsible for delays related to the pandemic.
A judge eventually sided with the consortium and the two sides renegotiated an agreement, which would have seen the line substantially completed by this past fall.
Verster went on to say in Tuesday’s statement that it would defend itself against the “latest legal challenge by CTS as we have done several times before.”
“The cost of CTS’s delays is for CTS to bear. Metrolinx is already withholding significant payments for poor performance.”
In an interview with CP24, Verster said there is “no substance” to the CTS’s claims.
“This is about money at a time when we are driving the project and supporting all of the parties to complete the project and CTS is making more commercial claims,” he said.
At this point, he said, it does not appear that the project will be finished in 2023, though crews will continue to work during the impending lawsuit.
Verster added Metrolinx was “a little surprised” by the news of the litigation, but hopes CTS will still deliver a credible schedule of completion by Thursday.
“We have faced many different litigations from CTS on this project. Every time, [we] resolve it with success… Our objective is as always to put it to the side, resolve it through due process, and focus the project team on completing the project.”
Verster has previously said there are as many as 260 quality issues with the project that need to be rectified..
‘SEEKING TO BE TREATED FAIRLY’: CTS
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, CTS says it submitted a notice of application against Metrolinx and Infrastructure due to the transit company’s “failure” to retain an operator for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
“CTS has been forced to take this step after months of engagement with Metrolinx about the challenges to the project as a result of Metrolinx having no signed Operating Agreement with the TTC (despite having a decade to do so),” vice president of communications for CTS, Susan Sperling, said in a statement, adding this notice is CTS looking to be “treated fairly” as they work to quickly complete the project.
"The Notice asks the Court to find that Metrolinx has an obligation to enter into a contract (Operating Agreement) with the TTC as the intended Operator of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and bind the TTC to a contract consistent with CTS’ contract (the Project Agreement)."
In direct response to Verster’s claims that CTS has filed this as a “delay tactic,” Sperling says they’re “disappointed” with that characterization, and stressed their point, that this action “seeks to remove existing barriers to completion so that we can get this project opened to the public as soon as possible.”
“At present, CTS has not suspended or stopped any work on the project despite Metrolinx’s continued refusal to recognize the impact of it’s failure to properly manage its own contractors under the Project Agreement,” Sperling said.
But, CTS says until the issues are resolved, they have asked the court to find they are not “obligated to continue working” on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.
“It is not tenable for CTS to continue working towards shifting standards, requirements, and goalposts of Project completion,” Sperling said.
'EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED': MCKELVIE
Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie issued a statement following the news of the impending litigation saying she is “extremely frustrated.”
“We want to see this resolved in a boardroom, not a courtroom,” she said on Twitter. “People need to come together, solve the problems plaguing this provincial project and get this very important transit line open.”
McKelvie added she has spoken with Mulroney and that she hopes Premier Doug Ford will set up a roundtable discussion to “hammer out a solution.”
“I'm happy to be there to represent the City of Toronto. We're happy to help them in any way that we can to continue to put pressure on to the contractor to get this work done,” she said.
With files from CP24's Chris Fox