‘It’s just unbearable’: Toronto mayor ‘disappointed’ Metrolinx still can’t provide opening date for Eglinton Crosstown
Published Wednesday, September 27, 2023 11:24AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 27, 2023 6:30PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says she is disappointed that a year after missing its last completion date, Metrolinx cannot even provide a new target date for the opening of the troubled Eglinton Crosstown light rail line.
“Deep sigh,” Chow said Wednesday when asked for her reaction to the news. “I'm just really disappointed. For 10 years the residents, the shop owners – everybody's been waiting – TTC riders. Come on, open it up.”
She said she wants the system to be tested and repaired as needed, but said it should be done “fast.”
“It's just unbearable. Ten years later, you still can't tell us when you can open it up? So please, Toronto riders deserve fast, reliable public transit and Eglinton LRT needs to be open. So it's really disappointing, but please fix it fast and open it up please.”
At a news conference earlier Wednesday, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said he still cannot provide a reliable opening date for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT as new problems are being discovered weekly.
“I had every intention to predict an opening date or series or range of possible opening dates for the Eglinton Crosstown with you today,” Verster told reporters at Metrolinx headquarters Wednesday. “But I decided against doing so, based on the fact that CTS is finding and rectifying issues on a week by week basis and that this affects the opening date significantly.”
While he wouldn’t share a date range or even commit to the line opening sometime next year, Verster said Metrolinx now has “a really good idea” of when the line will open. He said there is also a “much better schedule” now and the provincial transit agency will be providing updates on the project every two months going forward.
The project was supposed to be substantially complete a year ago, but CTS (Crosslinx Transit Solutions) – the consortium building the line – missed the deadline. It has been without a new target date for completion since.
Construction began on the line in the summer of 2011 and it was originally supposed to open in 2020.
However it has been plagued by delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in labour and supply chain problems. There has also been litigation between Metrolinx and Crosslinx Transit Solutions over cost overruns.
Crosslinx is a consortium made up of several large construction companies, including ACS-Dragados, Aecon, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin.
Verster said last year that Metrolinx was doing everything it could to hold the consortium accountable.
He said in August that he would provide a tentative opening date for the line by the end of the summer.
The total cost of the 19-km line now stands at around $12.56 billion.
Verster said the new problems that are being discovered weekly affect the opening date and that any target he were to give today would only be an estimate as opposed to a reliable date.
“We will announce an opening date once the high-risk testing phase is completed,” he promised.
Metrolinx Vice-President Phil Taberner offered a technical briefing and said construction of the line “is pretty much complete” aside from a small section of work at Yonge and Eglinton.
“We're in an extensive phase of testing and commissioning and through the testing and commissioning, faults and issues will arise,” Taberner said. “The time taken to rectify can be unpredictable which is why we are not prepared to predict the dates at this stage.”
However he said that lane closures related to construction of the line are nearly completely gone aside from a 400-metre stretch near Yonge Street.
Grilled by reporters Wednesday on the fact that he won’t even commit to a date range for completion now, Verster said he has “full accountability” as the head of the agency and that he “serves at the pleasure of the minister.”
He said the Crosstown is “one of the most complex” transit projects in North America at the moment and that it has been delayed by COVID and a range of other factors.
Ontario Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria, who was recently named to the file after Caroline Mulroney was moved out in a recent cabinet shuffle, did not attend the update. He had little to say about the indefinite delays to the line when asked about it by reporters at Queen’s Park Wednesday.
“Look, this is a very complicated project as I've come to appreciate in the few weeks that I've had on this file,” he said. “I appreciate the frustration that many commuters feel.”
However in a statement the opposition NDP called the Crosstown a “disaster” and said Verster – one of Ontario’s highest paid public servants with a salary of close to $900,000 – should be fired.
“Consumed by scandal, Ford’s Conservatives have lost control of the province’s transit agency and the vital Eglinton Crosstown,” NDP Transit Critic Joel Harden said. “It’s clear they can’t build transit projects in this province, and people are left waiting for transit that feels like it will never arrive. What a colossal—and costly—disaster.”
The NDP also took aim at Sarkaria for skipping the update.