The consortium building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT says it expects the long-delayed transit project to be completed by March 2023, but the provincial transit agency overseeing the project says that date is “overly ambitious.”
In an internal Metrolinx performance report from September 2022 obtained by the Star, Metrolinx said Crosslinx Transit Solutions does not have a “credible plan” to complete the LRT. It ascribed the “continuous slippage of the project’s plan” to the “underperformance of Crosslinx.
The documents give a detailed picture of the ongoing strife between the provincial agencies overseeing the project, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario, and Crosslinx, the consortium made up of four construction and engineering companies.
Crosslinx and Infrastructure Ontario did not respond to requests for comment by the Star. Metrolinx reiterated a statement it gave the Star in September, where it said it had expected the LRT to be up and running this fall, but Crosslinx fell behind schedule.
In its internal report, Metrolinx said the testing of the entire system is lagging behind schedule. “The plan’s projection is extremely ambitious and (Crosslinx) has continuously failed to achieve the goals,” the documents read.
Construction and engineering work on the line are 98 per cent complete, the documents say, while testing is only 78.5 per cent done.
The report says the current approved budget is $12.82 billion, up from $12.24 billion in 2019. It also shows Crosslinx has more than $260 million in outstanding claims against Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.
The LRT has been under construction since 2011 and was initially to be completed in 2020, but the timeline for the 19-kilometre light rail transit line has been pushed back several times, to the dismay of commuters and Eglinton businesses that have put up with more than a decade of heavy construction.
According to the report, which was first reported by CBC News, Crosslinx now expects the LRT to be complete by March 2023, though Metrolinx casts doubt on the viability of this timeline, calling the testing schedule “overly ambitious and not achievable.”
Among a list of issues Metrolinx identified is “lack of a credible plan toward the completion of the project.” Crosslinx, Metrolinx alleges, has not laid out the requirements for achieving revenue service demonstration — the point at which the transit agency can begin running the trains along the line to test that there are no problems.
“This is critical to understanding the schedule and a realistic project completion date. Until this aspect can be agreed upon and a credible plan accepted, the schedule remain (sic) categorized as red in status.”
Metrolinx flags issues with the work Crosslinx has completed so far, “including but not limited to failure of waterproofing/water ingress leading to leakages and mold; and damaged public-exposed concrete.”
The transit agency also outlines ongoing safety concerns with Crosslinx. While the consortium has improved its safety measures since an LRT worker was hit and killed by a cement truck driver in May, the report outlines, the transit agency and Infrastructure Ontario have continued to observe some violations of mobile equipment standards, which are important to preventing injury and death.
The relationship between Metrolinx and Crosslinx has been rocky for several years. In 2018, the provincial transit agency paid Crosslinx an extra $237 million to keep the project on track. But in February 2020, Metrolinx blamed the LRT’s delayed opening date on Crosslinx’s failure to meet construction targets, plus defects in old infrastructure under the TTC Eglinton station.
In December 2021, Metrolinx, Infrastructure Ontario and Crosslinx struck a new deal on the cost and timeline for the transit line after a legal battle over who should be responsible for the added costs to the LRT’s construction imposed by the pandemic. Ultimately, an Ontario Superior Court Justice ruled in Crosslinx’s favour, and the province had to pay Crosslinx an extra $325 million for the project.
In December 2021, Metrolinx said the transit line would be complete by September 2022 and ready for service in 2023, but in September, the Star reported the line was delayed again.
At the time, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said “We are doing everything to hold Crosslinx Transit Solutions accountable and to redouble efforts to meet their commitments and complete the work quickly so we can welcome riders onto a complete, tested and fully operational Eglinton Crosstown LRT as soon as possible.”