New report says the Eglinton Crosstown LRT could open five months late — and without its Eglinton stop
By Ben SpurrTransportation Reporter TORONTO STAR
Thu., Oct. 1, 2020timer4 min. read
updateArticle was updated 13 hrs ago
As delays continue to plague the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, the consortium building the project has proposed inaugurating service on the line five months behind schedule and without one of its most important stations operational on opening day.
Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency overseeing the project, conceded earlier this year that the $5.3-billion, 19-kilometre LRT across midtown won’t be finished by the previously announced deadline of September 2021. Metrolinx says it now expects the line to open sometime in 2022, but a firm date hasn’t been set.
But according to a new report, Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the private group contracted by the province to build the line, has floated a plan for a phased opening. It would see most of the LRT in service by Feb. 28, 2022, with the exception of Eglinton station, which wouldn’t be fully complete until September 2022.
The proposal was revealed in an analysis of Crosslinx’s work on the LRT published earlier this week by Moody’s, the credit rating firm. Crosslinx spokesperson Kristin Jenkins confirmed the plan Thursday.
“All parties believe having the line open as soon as possible is everyone’s top priority” but “it is not uncommon for major new transit lines to open in phases,” Jenkins said, citing the London’s Jubilee Line extension.
Metrolinx hasn’t signed off on the phased approach.
“Metrolinx is focused on ensuring that (Crosslinx) fully meets its obligations to deliver a system as soon as possible — a system that is complete, fully tested and ready to provide high quality, safe and reliable service to our customers,” said Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster in a stern statement.
He said Crosslinx “has not achieved necessary production rates to achieve the original project schedule” and Metrolinx “will continue to hold (the consortium) accountable for these delays.”
The Crosstown’s Eglinton stop will be a crucial transfer point with the Line 1 subway at Yonge Street, offering midtown riders a route downtown. It’s expected to be one of the busiest stations on the LRT.
But construction of the stop has been unexpectedly complex. It’s being built beneath the existing Eglinton subway station and, midway through work, Crosslinx discovered defects in structures installed in the 1950s during construction of the TTC stop. The defects had to be repaired, significantly delaying work on the new LRT station.
Jenkins said Crosslinx hopes to complete most of the Eglinton LRT stop by May 2022, but the direct connection to the subway wouldn’t be finished until the fall of that year. In the interim, LRT vehicles would stop at the station but passengers would have to transfer by exiting the LRT stop and entering Eglinton subway station at street level.
According to the Moody’s report, besides Eglinton, construction has also been delayed at four other stations: Kennedy, Forest Hill, Mount Pleasant and Cedarvale.
In the report, Moody’s said it has downgraded Crosslinx’s credit rating outlook from stable to negative, citing the lack of a new schedule agreement. Under the terms of the public-private partnership Crosslinx has entered into for the Crosstown, unless a new schedule is agreed to, the consortium could be on the hook for millions of dollars in costs for delays past the 2021 deadline.
Crosslinx has filed claims with Metrolinx asserting the consortium isn’t responsible for making the LRT project late and seeking compensation. Metrolinx denies those claims.
“Events outside of Crosslinx’s control have led to delays,” said Jenkins, citing problems with “permitting and approvals, unknown underground conditions and more recently labour shortages and delays in the supply chain related to COVID-19.”
She said such issues “are not uncommon for large, complex P3 projects” and “Crosslinx continues to seek a fair and reasonable settlement,” adding that the LRT is now 70 per cent complete.
When construction on the Crosstown began in 2011, it was supposed to be complete by 2020, but in 2015 that was pushed back a year.
The most recent delays come despite Metrolinx giving Crosslinx $237 million in 2018 as part of a settlement intended to keep the project on schedule. Metrolinx has defended that payment, saying that it addressed earlier problems and the latest setback is a result of new issues.
Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s), whose ward includes the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton, said a phased opening for the Crosstown that initially leaves out Eglinton station isn’t ideal but would be a better approach “than not opening at all.”
Matlow said repeated delays to the disruptive construction project are undermining the quality of life of local residents and the viability of Eglinton businesses. He accused Metrolinx of not being able to properly manage its contractors.
“There’s been conflict for the past several years between those parties. And it really makes me question the competency of how the project has been executed,” he said.