With the operational date for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project delayed another 15 months, local businesses in the area continue to suffer.
As a result, City councillors are now calling for compensation from the provincial government, through Metrolinx, for the small business owners on Eglinton Avenue along the construction route, something the transit agency says it isn't in the position to do.
Anne Marie Aikins, the spokesperson for Metrolinx, said in a statement to Toronto Storeys that the company understands construction for the project has an impact on people travelling along Eglinton Avenue, including the vehicles, transit users, pedestrians, and cyclists, as well as nearby neighbourhoods and businesses.
"The nature of the concerns businesses have brought forward generally relate to limited or reduced parking, traffic congestion and business access - concerns that existed prior to the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project, but concerns that have been exacerbated now that construction is underway," said Aikins.
Aikins added Metrolinx has been working closely with the city, councillors, local residents and business improvement areas (BIAs) to monitor and mitigate the impact of construction.
"We make every effort to ensure that businesses receive up-to-date information on construction activities and timing and where they are directly impacted, they are supported. This involves significant outreach and public communication. There are also two community offices that are a great resource for businesses and residents," added Aikins.
However, despite the transit agency's efforts, two city councillors, Mike Colle and Josh Matlow, are pushing for the Ontario government, through Metrolinx, to provide compensation to local businesses who have lost money because of the LRT construction.
Councillor Colle, Ward 8 Eglinton-Lawrence, has since referred to the project as “Crosstown Construction Hell” that has caused over 100 shops to close, including a McDonalds and a funeral home.
The York-Eglinton BIA has also demanded compensation, stating the impact of construction on the small businesses along Eglinton Avenue has been significant.
"Small businesses have been directly impacted by barricades, disruption in pedestrian foot traffic and the severe loss of revenue and customers," said the organization in a statement. "The physical and mental wellbeing of many small business owners has negatively been affected."
The organization requested compensation to assist businesses with their rent and other bills, in addition to ongoing mental health support to affected business owners and their families.
The requests were made after Metrolinx President Phil Verster announced last week that the Eglinton Crosstown would not be completed on time.
"It is expected that the LRT will open well into 2022," Verster said in a statement.
"A number of challenges have arisen since the start of the project, including starting nine months late and a defect found under the TTC station box at Eglinton-Yonge subway station that needs to be fixed before the project can be completed," said Verster.
“Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario, CTS (Crosslinx Transit Solutions), and the TTC have been seized with addressing this defect and although a way forward has been determined, the station will be delayed further,” Verster explained.
Crews worked to form out the massive cavern that will house the station – 32 metres below the roadway. (Metrolinx photo)
As part of their request, Colle and Matlow have also asked for immediate cleanup of all construction sites on the sidewalks and road allowances on Eglinton Avenue West and for Metrolinx to consider the feasibility of opening sections of the line before the entire project is finished.
Aikins said, "sites are cleared as soon as possible and over the next year, the amount of construction residents see on their streets will be minimized as work goes underground. There’s already been a great deal of progress at most stations and impacts have already been minimized as much as possible."
"The surface segment will be cleaned up and reinstated by the end of this year," added Aikins.
Additionally, Aikins said Mount Dennis, Keelesdale, and Caledonia underground stations will be completed this year and Crosslinx is responsible for restoring roadways and sidewalks within station areas to their original state.
When completed, the project will span 19 km along Eglinton Avenue and have 25 stations from Mount Dennis in the west to Kennedy in the east.