Is the Eglinton Crosstown LRT still on track to be finished by the end of 2022?

Nick Westoll checks on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project to see if construction is still on track to finish by the end of 2022.

Construction of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT has been going on for more than a decade, but will recent COVID and supply chain issues mixed with some trade union strikes impact the completion of the line by the end of 2022?

Officials with Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency overseeing the construction of the 25-stop line by consortium Crosslinx, said the goal is still to achieve substantial completion by the year’s end.

“[Crosslinx is] still looking at the impacts of a variety of things … It’s the biggest transit construction project in the country that has been underway for we know a decade,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told CityNews on Friday.

“People are really impatient, are eager to see it open finally. All of these different little things can have impacts on a project, but they all kind of add up after a while.”

Questions about the status of the line come amid concerns by Toronto city council on Thursday about the effects the planned Ontario Line (the Ford government’s proposed subway line that will connect Ontario Place with the Ontario Science Centre) will have on neighbourhoods such as Leslieville.

Members sought to get additional protections after years of frustrations expressed by residents and business owners over construction on the Eglinton Crosstown project. Councillors who represent wards abutting Eglinton Avenue recounted their frustrations.

“You could work full-time just on the related impacts of construction,” Coun. Mike Colle said.

“I’ll give you one example … when you start tunnelling and digging for these major transit projects what happens the rats all come to the surface — the rats the size of cats and dogs.”

Councillors Michael Thompson and Josh Matlow reflected on how small businesses experienced major difficulties.

“People are avoiding going there because of the construction. The businesses are suffering and at the same time they have to pay their lease payments, they have to pay their taxes,” Thompson said.

“Many businesses the first time that they ever had any real government funding support when they were taking on the burden for the greater public good was during COVID due to the COVID relief programs,” Matlow added.

RELATED: Eglinton Crosstown completion, Ontario Line groundbreaking among 2022 Toronto transit plans

CityNews recently travelled along the entire Eglinton Crosstown line to look at progress. At stations like Keelesdale and Laird, it’s almost fully done on the outside. But at stations like Leaside, Mount Pleasant, Eglinton and Bayview in the central part of the 25-stop line, those stations are a bit further behind –fuelled, in part, by site complexities.

“Lots behind the scenes to do to make sure this all operates from day one safely and well, efficiently for customers,” Aikins said.

“All of these different little things can have little impacts on a project, but they all kind of add up after a while.”

She insisted the goal is still to substantially finish the project by the end of 2022 before turning it over to the TTC to operate.

“We’re off the roads much more than we used to be,” Aikins said.

“That will gradually, over the next six months or so, become less and less of an impact for people that live in those areas. They’ll start to see more corners open up, more streets open, more sidewalks opening up, just less of an impact on the surface construction.”

Metrolinx staff said recent construction highlights include:

• At-grade construction between Brentcliffe and Kennedy done, road restoration and landscaping to be done by end of summer here
• Finishing work at Cedarvale, Eglinton, Kennedy stations underway
• All 76 train vehicles here and running full speed end to end
• Communication systems (cameras, public announcement devices, electronic signs) being tested, connected to TTC operations centre
• Building of backup battery storage/power system for LRT line finished

A firm date for the transfer to the TTC hasn’t been finalized yet nor has the opening day. Aikins acknowledged the process has had a major impact and removing materials off roads and in front of stations can’t happen widely because of a lack of space to store still needed equipment.

Meanwhile, Aikins said one thing is clear now though: Don’t expect a partial opening of the line.

“Opening things piecemeal comes with other impacts of where you turn trains, where you store trains, it has all kinds of impacts,” she said.

“Our intention is to open it all together, but it doesn’t mean if a station still has some minor finishing touches as long as you can open it safely, it can still open.”

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