Officials say Eglinton Crosstown has 260 deficiencies and still no firm completion timeline
Posted April 27, 2023 3:23 pm.
Last Updated April 28, 2023 1:21 am.
Days after CityNews reported construction crews were ripping up Sloane station on the yet-to-be-opened Eglinton Crosstown LRT, provincial officials have confirmed there are approximately 260 deficiencies to be dealt with along the line.
During an unrelated announcement at the Toronto Transit Commission’s headquarters Thursday morning about furthering procurement work on the Yonge North subway extension, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster faced several questions about the state of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line.
“I am fully responsible for the opening of the system, but we’ve seen in Ottawa what happens when politicians push subway systems or transit systems to open before they’re ready … and we don’t want that to happen here,” Mulroney said.
Premier Doug Ford said he told Verster and Mulroney the Crosstown shouldn’t open until it is 100 per cent safe.
“I’m not going to pull a Mayor (Jim) Watson in Ottawa, pushing it forward, derailing the LRT in Ottawa, making a total mess of it,” he said at an unrelated press conference.
Ottawa’s LRT has been plagued with repeated closures and operating problems since the 12.5-kilometre line opened with 13 stations in 2019.
A public inquiry revealed a litany of issues including doors that wouldn’t close properly, wheels that became flat after use, and a frustrating inconsistency operating in winter weather. The inquiry also revealed a lack of transparency and accountability about the problems.
Mulroney and Verster blamed the contractor, Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), for the delay while also citing disrupted supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are working closely with Metrolinx to get CTS, who’s delivering the project for us, to provide a credible schedule so that we can then let the people of Ontario know when we’ll be able to open the system,” Mulroney said.
The biggest problem, Verster said, is the track, which was completed in 2021.
“It’s outside of specification, though, and it needs to be rectified,” Verster said. “And despite our urging and our guidance, it’s only being rectified now.”
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Verster said many issues have arisen with the project, including the track, which was completed in 2021.
“Despite our urging and our guidance, it’s only being rectified now and it will have a two-month impact at least on the completion date,” he said.
“If you have track, which was literally millimeters out of specification … the risk you have is that a train runs and actually climbs up on the track and derails. So the degree of accuracy that we’re talking about are literally millimeters, that must be done right.”
Verster added testing and commissioning is behind schedule, as is the phase in which CTS engineers certify documentation that work has been done to specification.
“We’re spending an inordinate amount actively managing and guiding CTS in their delivery. And yes, we want this, we want this project completed. But I gotta say my biggest concern is that the quality is right. And that we get a safe transit system. We are building infrastructure for the next 100 to 150 years. And we’ve got to get it right.”
The project also started behind schedule, Verster said, with initial design work between nine and 18 months delayed.
“Losing 18 months at the beginning of a project is never really recovered thereafter,” he said.
Verster said one lesson learned is to break contracts into smaller parts because if one entity is responsible for the entire project, there is a greater likelihood of it not succeeding because of the scale, Verster said. Mulroney added the government is approaching the construction of the Ontario Line transit project in that way.
CityNews contacted CTS on Thursday to ask for comment made during the news conference, but a spokesperson for the company didn’t respond.
The line was originally set to open in 2020, but its deadline was pushed back multiple times and in the latter part of 2022 an indefinite delay was announced. CityNews reported earlier in 2023 how political staff rejected efforts by Metrolinx staff to tell the public more about issues plaguing the line.
The latest visible hiccup came on Thursday when a CityNews crew visited Sloane station, located between the Don Valley Parkway and Victoria Park Avenue, and saw a jackhammer being used to dig up the platform along with crews bringing out large chunks of concrete in a wheelbarrow, dumping the items into a Bobcat machine and then the discarded items being put into a dumpster.
In a notice posted online the following day as CityNews began to ask about the work happening, it said work is underway to repair “an uneven layer of concrete” and that the work, which is scheduled to take place over the course of a month, “requires chipping of the platform and placing new concrete.” Sources familiar with the work being done told CityNews the original grading of the concrete caused issues with water ponding on the platform.
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CityNews asked Metrolinx on Friday what specifically was wrong with the station, what inspection and quality control measures were in place when the platform was built years ago, how the problem got missed, and what’s the cost to fix the issues. In a two-sentence statement, Metrolinx staff didn’t elaborate on the background but noted the matter was identified proactively.
“Crews are currently working on the Sloane platform to perform repairs on a section of concrete that was identified through our strict quality control and inspection process,” the statement said.
“There are no costs to the taxpayer as this work is part of the existing project contract requirements.”
Joel Harden, the NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre and the party’s transit critic, slammed the Ford government hours after the revelations were made.
“It’s clear to be the government has lost control of this project,” he told CityNews.
“The public deserves to know what is wrong with the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The public deserves to know why the costs of this project ballooned from $5 billion to $13 billion. The public deserves to know why it’s two years late. We need a lot more detail.”
Matti Siemiatycki, the director of the University of Toronto’s Infrastructure Institute and a geography professor, echoed the need for more information.
“In that information vortex you’re seeing public concern around the construction and just frustration building, trust eroded,” he said during an interview with CityNews.
When asked how the Eglinton Crosstown compares with other major infrastructure projects, he said it isn’t unique anymore.
“These big projects will always have deficiencies, the question is how quickly they’re caught and how quickly they’re fixed,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press