Officials provide update on Eglinton Crosstown project, work at most delayed station

Metrolinx and Crosslinx officials provided a rare, below-ground tour to show the progress and challenges facing the ongoing Eglinton Crosstown project. Construction, testing and commissioning work is expected to go well into 2024.

As officials provided their first in-station Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction update in nearly two years, the head of Metrolinx still refuses to provide insight on a potential opening date.

“As you would have seen today, we are finding and fixing issues and defects,” president and CEO Phil Verster said Friday morning.

“Once we are satisfied that we’ve got the risk of those contained, we’re going to announce an opening date but not before.”

Verster reiterated a recent commitment to advise the public of the opening date three months before the line becomes operational. Despite repeated questioning from reporters, he wouldn’t even rule out certain periods in the absence of providing a tentative date.

“We’re not going to be drawn on a date. We’re not going to guess which year it is. We’re just going to focus on driving the program forward,” Verster said.

“The progress on this project is significantly better in this last year since we’ve started to open some of the commercial issues more … the progress you’re seeing is largely based on the commitment of 1,200 on the [Crosslinx Transit Solutions] side, 200 people on our side, two teams that are working closely together to get this over the line.”

The comments came during a tour of Eglinton station at the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue hosted by Metrolinx and Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), the private-sector consortium responsible for building the LRT line. It is the most problematic part of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project.

The closest hint of when the line might open came during a visit to the platform level. Bill Gifford, the president of CTS, said the work of “fine-tuning” certain rail sections “by literally millimetres” on the above-ground section will happen in 2024 because those segments weren’t completely built to specifications. He said the last bit of that work ideally needs to occur during “warmer, drier weather” and without snow on the ground.

The Eglinton Crosstown was supposed to be open in 2020, but a series of construction, pandemic and legal issues have prolonged the project. Work on the 19-kilometre, 25-station light rail transit line between Weston and Kennedy roads began in 2011 and while construction across the Eglinton Crosstown is more than 97 per cent done, crews have been struggling to finish at and near the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.

Most of the Eglinton Crosstown-related road restrictions along the route have been largely removed, but there are still around 400 metres affected above and near the Eglinton station. Road decking needs to be removed on Eglinton Avenue East and road restoration is underway. Officials said on Friday they’re working to remove lane restrictions by sometime in January.

Reporters were taken across the station’s four levels and down to the station platform which is 20 metres below ground and beneath the TTC’s Line 1 subway. The station itself is largely completed with fare gates and machines along with secondary entrances and exits being the largest remaining items. During the tour, crews said they found isolated areas where they’ve had to create channels to deal with water penetration and feed the water into drainage systems.

Testing and commissioning work of approximately 41,000 assets and components (e.g. public address speakers, cameras, sensors to detect people at track level, elevators, escalators, fire suppression systems etc.) across the entire line is ongoing.

Officials touted recent progress made with signalling systems and vehicle availability even though crews are finding defects “on an ongoing basis.”

“In the end, we need to run trains reliably, at the right frequency, all day long and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to get these last software defects rectified but we’re working urgently to get that over the line,” Verster said.

As an example of progress made, Verster said in September the fleet of rail vehicles was “performing relatively poorly.” Currently, 10 trains are running across the Eglinton Crosstown line as TTC instructors get trained on the vehicles.

“We put an action plan in place with CTS (Crosslinx), we brought in more resources and the rail fleet issues were significantly rectified. There are 42 vehicles in service today and the issue is resolved,” he said.

“The fact trains are running is extremely positive because as the trains run, very small but important steps are being tested and recorded.”

Toward the end of the tour, Verster issued an apology to the community.

“I want to say unambiguously I apologize. I apologize to the businesses, to the communities, to the people of Toronto for the fact this project is late,” he said.

When CityNews asked about the ongoing concerns raised by business operators about how the project has impacted them and if there might be new supports to assist, Verster said they will continue to work with business improvement areas.

“We have worked hard with CTS to return as much of Eglinton roadway and pavements back to operational service. We’re doing everything we’ve committed to publicly and everything we’re mandated to do in support of businesses, and our focus is to get this open as quickly as possible,” he said.

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