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'Nine years of hell:' councillors say businesses should be compensated amid Crosstown delays
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, February 18, 2020 9:54AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 18, 2020 11:28PM EST
The Eglinton Crosstown has fallen behind schedule and now won’t be operational until “well into 2022,” according to a statement from Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster.
The 19-kilometre rapid transit line was scheduled to be completed by September 2021 but in a statement issued Tuesday morning Verster said that delays will push back its opening until sometime in 2022.
Verster attributed the majority of the delays to Crosslinx Transit Solutions, which is the consortium responsible for the construction of the $5.3 billion project.
He said that the consortium started construction nine months later than initially planned and was slow to “finalize the designs with some design work packages.”
He said that while the consortium has “significantly improved,” the pace of work since 2018 has still only achieved 84 per cent of what it had hoped to by this point, “meaning the project will be delayed.”
Complicating issues further, Verster said that a “defect” was found under Eglinton Station. He said that while “a way forward has been determined,” that issue will also delay the completion of the line.
“Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario are not making any precise predictions of the project completion date at this point, simply because CTS must prove to us that they can achieve the new production rates they say they can achieve. It is important to note that the project remains within budget,” he said. “We will keep the public apprised on a consistent basis over the next two years on how work is progressing.”
While Verster said that the delay in the opening of the line is ultimately the fault of Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the consortium said that it disagreed with that characterization in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon.
They said that the project “has persistently faced problems related to third-party approvals and defective infrastructure.”
Those problems, the statement notes, are “typical on large transit projects” but could be reduced in the future by new legislation introduced by the province on Tuesday to “expedite the planning, design and construction process” for major transit projects.
Discussing that legislation with reporters earlier on Tuesday, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that it could have helped deliver the Crosstown “up to three years earlier.”
“We are still going to respect property rights, negotiate in good faith and treat people fairly but we are not going to spend 12 months getting permission to remove a tree,” she said.
Metrolinx had said as recently as December that project was on schedule
News of the delayed opening of the Eglinton Crosstown comes two months after a report in the Toronto Star, which suggested that Crosslinx Transit Solutions had informed Metrolinx that the line may not be completed until May 2022.
The report, citing internal Metrolinx documents, listed defects found in watertight chambers at Eglinton Station, the discovery of groundwater at what will be Avenue Station and work relating to a rail bridge at the future Mount Dennis Station as some of the issues responsible for the potential delay.
At the time, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told CP24 that the project was “still tracking for September 2021” and that officials felt they could “get it pretty close to that,” though it would seem that things have changed.
“Today I have apologized to the people of Toronto and our communities. This is not the kind of news we want to share with people,” Verster said during an interview with CP24 on Tuesday afternoon. “Look my team work with CTS on a daily basis, I work with their CEO’s on a monthly basis and when we saw that they weren’t going to achieve their schedule because of production rate issues on their side (we notified residents). We are helping them through this not but it is not great news and we apologize for that.”
‘Nine years of hell’
Business owners along Eglinton Avenue have previously complained about the ongoing construction on the Crosstown and said Tuesday that they are demanding compensation.
“We are demanding action and compensation to assist our small businesses that are experiencing financial hardship,” Nick Alampi, chair of the York-Eglinton BIA said in a statement.
The BIA is calling on the province and Metrolinx “to act in good faith” by providing financial assistance to the small businesses affected by the delay.
During a hastily called press conference late Tuesday afternoon, two city councillors for the neighbourhood surrounding the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue also made the case that the province should now provide financial compensation to business owners in the area, many of whom are struggling to stay afloat.
“Today was the breaking point. It was the straw that broke the camels’ back basically. People have been hanging on by their fingernails for nine years of construction, for nine years of hell,” Coun. Mike Colle said. “In that 9 years of hell I know in just one section of Eglinton over 100 small businesses have closed. Today we are drawing a line in the sand and saying we need a reality check. We need the province to compensate these businesses so they can last for another two years because without help from the province another 100 businesses will close for sure.”
Colle said that in addition to compensating businesses, the province should “clean up the construction mess on Eglinton” and look into opening parts of the line that will be complete earlier than 2022.
“To hear today that it is going to be another two years is just devastating,” he said.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Mayor John Tory’s office said that they remain “confident” that the city and the province share “the goal of getting the Crosstown finished as soon as possible” despite the delays.
“The Mayor has certainly made it known that businesses along Eglinton Avenue need this finished and commuters need the transit. He is confident the Premier and the Minister understand this,” the statement reads.