Eglinton Crosstown project needs public inquiry amid delays, communication issues: BIA

Melissa Nakhavoly speaks with business owners after Metrolinx announced the Eglinton Crosstown LRT won't be finished by the end of 2022.

The manager of the York-Eglinton BIA is calling on the Ontario government to launch a public inquiry into the 11-year Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction project after officials announced it will once again be delayed in opening.

“There is little regard for how it impacts local businesses,” Louroz Mercader, the manager for the York-Eglinton BIA, said during an interview on Tuesday.

“I mean for any business that operates out there you need time to plan for things, and so we had small businesses planning this would be up and operational by the end of the year and perhaps the beginning of the new year.

“To hear that it may open sometime in the future — they didn’t even give a new date for this — I think is outrageous.”

Mercader said he and other business advocates want the public inquiry to focus on the impact of the 25-stop, 19-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown project has had on communities and small businesses in order to minimize future problems.

“We’re building transit across the City of Toronto and across the region, the next big line being the Ontario Line, and we got to learn from our mistakes of what happened here so that we don’t repeat the same thing in other communities when we’re building new transit out there,” he told CityNews.

One of the major issues for the Eglinton Crosstown, Mercader said, has revolved around communication.

“We’re really upset and angry that once again there was a lack of communication and outreach by Metrolinx, Crosslinx and the Province of Ontario because up to this point in time we were expecting this line was supposed to open by the end of the year as they promised,” he said.

“There’s no accountability on what is the new timeline? When is this supposed to be completed by? So then people could start planning their lives, their businesses, and the community can start reaping the benefits of a decade of construction.”

RELATED: Business owners frustrated over another Eglinton Crosstown delay

He said other instances of poor communication have involved notices about specific lane closures and describing where customer-only parking can be found.

Mercader made an appeal for an apology and direct financial compensation for small business that have been impacted by Eglinton Crosstown construction.

“This is the third delay that happened on this line and nobody has apologized it has taken so long and has impacted and distressed this community for far too long,” he said.

“It’s not fair that they have to suffer through 10 years of construction and the impact on their business and bottom line, and it’s only fair that we ensure that they are successful and reap the benefits of this new line when it opens. But in the time being, they need a lifeline to ensure that they’re successful and are still there when it opens.”

The comments follow other frustrations communicated by other business owners in the days since Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency overseeing the project, quietly announced in a brief three-paragraph statement the opening was being delayed for an unspecified period of time.

RELATED: Metrolinx confirms delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT won’t be done by end of 2022

Construction on the Eglinton Crosstown began in 2011 and was supposed to be finished by 2020. The project has been plagued by various delays, including COVID-19, supply chain issues and labour union strikes. Complex and unforeseen construction-related issues also impacted timelines. A previous legal settlement between Metrolinx and Crosslinx, the private-sector consortium charged with building the line, aimed to have substantial completion by the end of this month. Informal estimates suggest the LRT line could open by the end of 2023.

Despite CityNews sending multiple requests to Metrolinx, Crosslinx and Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney’s office since Friday, many of those inquiries were ignored and officials didn’t provide further information such as the new estimated opening date, the specific reasons why the project has been delayed again, what assurances will be given to the public surrounding a new timeframe, and the decisions surrounding the release of the statement.

Meanwhile, Mercader encouraged people to visit the affected small businesses in the coming months — adding there has been some progress in removing construction hoarding in areas around Eglinton Crosstown stations.

“We have a reputation out there that Eglinton is still under construction, it’s difficult to access because of all the lane restrictions and the LRT is still not open, and so they really need to focus on a target date so once again we can bring people back onto Eglinton and small businesses can thrive again,” he said.

“You don’t have to wait (until) then, you can come down and support these businesses today.”

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