Some neighbourhoods choking with traffic as businesses await Eglinton Crosstown delay info

It's been weeks since the Ontario government announced an indefinite delay for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project. Residents and business owners are frustrated with a lack of communication and ongoing construction. Nick Westoll reports.

It’s been nearly six weeks since the Ontario government announced the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line wouldn’t be substantially completed by the end of 2022, but neighbourhoods and businesses still continue to deal with the fallout of the delay.

While not a new issue in the decade-long project, neighbourhoods northeast and southeast of Allen Road and Eglinton Avenue West are being choked with traffic backups.

“Small, quiet residential streets with an enormous amount of standstill traffic for blocks and blocks, and it’s all due to the Allen road,” Lora Sloan, an area resident told CityNews on Wednesday.

“We see cars driving on sidewalks, we see cars driving on the wrong side of the street, people can’t access their driveways, their houses, people have refused to do carpools because they don’t want to come to our area. Kids are dodging cars at crosswalks by the schools.

“So when people are speeding and frustrated and have been sitting in traffic for hours, they are going to do dangerous things and I warn my children every day when they go off to school they have to look and be extraordinarily careful because I don’t trust anyone is looking out for their best interests.”

At the intersection where the future Cedarvale station will be, Eglinton Crosstown construction crews are still doing surface-level work with lane restrictions close by.

CityNews walked along Eglinton Avenue West, Glenarden Road, Wembley Road, Old Forest Hill Road and Ridge Hill Drive Tuesday afternoon after being contacted by Sloan.

On Sept. 23, Metrolinx — the provincial transportation agency — overseeing the project made the long-suspected announcement of a delay.

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, aimed to have substantial completion in 2022. Informal estimates suggested the LRT line could open sometime by the end of 2023, but no specifics have been given.

“They’re making progress, there’s been another delay announced, we don’t know when it’s going to end – no one has announced a completion date,” Sloan said.

“We’re patient, I mean we’ve endured over 10 years of this and we understand they have to continue the construction, but we’re asking Metrolinx to implement reasonable and effective measures to improve traffic flow.”

RELATED: Transportation minister won’t say what new timeline is for delayed Eglinton Crosstown

In a newly created petition, she and hundreds of others are calling for increased traffic management. Sloan said traffic control personnel, repaved and cleaned streets, coordinated traffic light timing, improved signage and road painting would go a long way toward addressing confusion and backlogs.

“Metrolinx has done nothing effective to help our area,” she said.

CityNews contacted Metrolinx to ask about construction delays and the complaints about traffic, but a response wasn’t received by the time of publication.

City of Toronto staff responded to similar questions after the publication of this story.

“Staff are working very closely with Metrolinx on managing congestion on Eglinton Avenue and are actively identifying opportunities to reduce impacts at traffic hotspots and intersections along the route, including at Eglinton Avenue West and Allen Road,” a statement sent Wednesday evening said.

“The City will be coordinating with Metrolinx to open as many intersections along Eglinton Avenue as early as possible to reduce traffic congestion and local road infiltration in nearby communities. One example includes the recent re-opening of the northbound left-turn lane at Eglinton Avenue and Bathurst Street.

“City staff are also monitoring traffic cameras in the area to provide real-time problem solving, implementing signal timing changes to smooth traffic flow and posting signage at all locations to help residents travel safely and efficiently.”

Near Avenue Road and Eglinton Avenue West, area shop owners said COVID-19 and Eglinton Crosstown work over the past 11 years means they are struggling more than ever.

“We’ve always called for direct supports for business, especially for those businesses behind hoarding … it’s meaningful to have that kind of support,” Maureen Sirois at Vicky’s Jewellery told CityNews on Tuesday.

She’s also the chair of The Eglinton Way Business Improvement Area and said they have pushed to have direct financial compensation without luck.

Sirois and others are doing what they can to drum up extra business and attention to the BIA, including hosting a holiday fashion show fundraiser at The Eglinton Grand on Nov. 17.

“There’s a lot of frustrations on a lot of levels because the longer this project is delayed, it just increases the hardship and… the disability for the shops to be accessible to their customers, serve their customers in a meaningful way. So it just delays the hardship,” she said.

“We’ve had 10 years of endless construction and it doesn’t seem to be ending. We have had no indication on when this is going to be completed and so that’s very frustrating. Businesses can not plan their future, they cannot plan down the road.”

Hassan Aghili, the owner of the clothing store Vivace, echoed the concern about the lingering economic impacts and the need for financial support.

“It’s very bad, it’s very bad. It dropped at least 50 per cent since they started digging,” he said while also referencing issues with declining sidewalks and roads.

“We are very disappointed. We are paying taxes and we have to clean up ourselves. It’s really bad. There’s not enough traffic coming to the store.”

The Ontario government provided $3 million in 2020 for marketing- and storefront cleaning-related assistance.

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

The only recent update relating to the Eglinton Crosstown on the Metrolinx website references a contest called “ShopEglinton2Win,” which is handing out $7,500 to businesses and customers who visit shops in one of several BIAs on the corridor.

“It’s a nice gesture, but we don’t anticipate it will bring a lot of new customers to Eglinton but it might reward those who are patronizing our businesses now,” Sirois said.

“It doesn’t make up for the 10 years of lost business, it doesn’t make up for what’s the delay, it doesn’t make up for a lot of things.”

Since the delay was announced in September, CityNews has pushed for further information such as the new targeted opening date along with a breakdown on where and what the outstanding issues. Despite more than half a dozen inquires being sent to Metrolinx, Crosslinx and Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney’s office, many of those messages and questions went unanswered.

With no response from Metrolinx or Crosslinx on Wednesday, CityNews went to Bradford to ask for comment on the project.

“I share their frustrations, all of us do, of the people who live along the corridor and the businesses that are there. That’s why we’ve provided financial support in the past, but as you know this is a project we inherited from the liberals. It was mismanaged from the start,” Mulroney said during an unrelated announcement.

The questions asked weren’t directly answered. With the government at the helm for four years, Mulroney said the Progressive Conservative government brought in new legislation streamline approvals for massive transit projects put forward such as the Ontario Line.

But as businesses look to make needed gains, Sirois made this push heading into the holiday shopping season.

“Eglinton is open for business and we would be so delighted if they came. We have great shops, we have great restaurants, great services and people need to understand that we’re depending on them for their support,” she said.

“Shop local, support the businesses that you want to support. We are so happy when our customers are happy, and every dollar you spend in a local business stays in the community.”

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