To the dismay of many, but to the surprise of few, Metrolinx announced yet another delay to the opening of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The news, revealed in a Metrolinx blog post on the afternoon of Friday, September 23, did not provide a new expected opening date for the transit line, nor a specific reason for the delay.
"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," Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster said in the statement.
With the line having been expected to open this year, the vague nature of the announcement has led to a growing call for a public inquiry into the delay -- the latest in a series of delays that continue to push the opening from its originally expected 2020 date. One of the people leading that call is Toronto City Councillor Mike Colle, who represents the Eglinton-Lawrence area. The announcement didn't come as a total surprise to Colle, who suspects that Metrolinx is intentionally withholding information as to the cause of the delay.
"We were hearing rumors that they've got a major engineering problem on the line, but they won't tell us what it is," Colle told STOREYS. "I had my fingers crossed and said, you know, maybe it'll open at the end of the year, but then all of a sudden they do this sneaky announcement on a Friday afternoon. They do it on a blog post. They don't even have a press conference. Whenever something is announced a Friday afternoon, that always tells me they're trying to hide something."
The lack of a new opening date, he says, leads him to believe that Metrolinx has "lost control of the project." What Colle hopes to find out through a public inquiry, which he is asking Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney to carry out, is not only the cause of the set back, but how much this delay is going to affect the overall price tag of the project. An anonymous source speaking with CBC said that the delay will be at least a year, with construction crews experiencing major issues related to the underground stations, particularly at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.
"They're hiding the cost of this," Colle said. "It's probably going to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. They're going to have to pay everybody to work on this for another year or two."
The original estimated cost to build the Eglinton Crosstown LRT was $5.3B, with two additional payments made to builder Crosslinx Transit Solutions in 2018 and 2021 of $237M and $325M, respectively, to keep the project on track.
Both the Ministry of Transportation and Metrolinx did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The calls for an inquiry have been supported by other local politicians, including Councillor Josh Matlow, whose ward of Toronto-St Paul's has been directly affected by Englinton Crosstown construction.
"On behalf of the residents and businesses who’ve been treated like collateral damage by the provincial transit agency, I’m calling out their incompetence and demanding reparations," Matlow said on social media.
Louroz Mercader, the manager for the York-Eglinton BIA, similarly called for an inquiry during an interview with CityNews. And ATU Local 113, a union representing nearly 12,000 public transit workers, joined in the call on Wednesday. A statement from the union underscored the public's right to know about the cause of the delay and its associated costs.
"ATU Local 113 is calling on the City to launch an independent inquiry into the delays and cost increases, and for our members to have a seat at the table," the statement reads. "We are going to have to pay to operate it, surely, we deserve to know how much it cost."
Colle is hopeful that public pressure may force the provincial government to provide answers -- something he says they have not been forthcoming with in the past in regards to Eglinton Crosstown construction delays.
"They've ignored the City's call for answers before, so that's why I'm trying to build up public support for my call for an inquiry," Colle said. "If enough people get on the phone and email Minister Mulroney and Premier Ford's office, they will do it."