LEVY: Heads should roll over the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT boondoggle
LEVY: Heads should roll over the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT boondoggle

It could be considered the boondoggle of the past decade and proof of how little accountability there is by provincial and municipal governments over major construction projects.

I’m referring to the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT build, which is now in its 12th year of construction with no end in sight.

The construction is at least $1B over budget (up to $12.5B which includes operating the system) and the actual opening is likely one year away–four years from the initial target date of fall 2020.

The 19-km line – which is supposed to be being managed by Metrolinx and built by a consortium led by Crosslinx Transit Solutions – has been plagued by legal issues, delays due to Covid and troubles digging under key stations with an existing subway like Yonge Eglinton.

Several sources have contended that contractors encountered a water table when they dug deep at Yonge and Eglinton. If so, it is something that should have been anticipated long before construction began.

But none of the players associated with this fiasco are admitting to anything except for uttering useless platitudes about how the Eglinton-Crosstown is a priority. The Ford government keeps blaming delays due to Covid and the contractor.

Earlier this week, Crosslinx filed its second lawsuit against Metrolinx, claiming that the TTC – which will operate the line once done – has made never-ending demands on them.

Another lawsuit in 2020 claimed that supply chain problems and absenteeism during the pandemic delayed Crosslinx from meeting its targets and hiked costs.

A $325-million settlement was reached at the end of 2021 and the target completion date was pushed back a year.

The latest lawsuit, which could shut down work entirely, has left the completion date completely up in the air.

There’s been plenty of finger-pointing but in my view, everyone has dropped the ball on this. The leftists, who believe the government should be responsible for building all projects, blame the private-public partnership model.

But the P3 model works if its government overseers do their job.

Both the Ford government and Metrolinx have been grossly negligent about keeping on top of Crosslinx. Toronto city officials – council and the mayor – sat on their hands, passing the buck to Metrolinx.

Yet the Ford government turned over the management of the Ontario Line build to Metrolinx as if they haven’t completely made a mockery of on-time and on-budget construction with the Crosstown.

All any politician needed to do was come to my neighbourhood, where they’d have a bird’s eye view of the lack of productivity by all of the trades on the project.

I have written much over the years about workers loafing at or near the job site playing with their iPhones for more time than constitutes a coffee break. At the stations near me, workers leave the job at 4 p.m. sharp or earlier, never to be seen on weekends or at night. During Christmas, they were given two weeks off. 

It was outrageous to see, especially as the years wore on and those of us living near the construction site had to endure being detoured and trapped in our streets, construction debris and an endless stream of trucks (even TTC buses) being diverted to our streets.

I lost count of how many businesses, hidden behind construction hoarding, went bankrupt over the past 12 years..

Those who managed to hang on during the construction and COVID lockdowns worked night and day to stay alive.

Productivity at Yonge and Eglinton

On a trip along Eglinton this past week, there was absolutely no sign of work being done at any stations. Equipment and debris sat untouched.

Construction-weary shop owners told me they have no clue what will happen next.

They added that Toronto City Hall, in its wisdom, started to install bike lanes along the street–until the businesses got a one-year moratorium to recover from the construction.

They worry that once the year is up, Toronto transportation officials will remove all parking on the street to put in the bike lanes.

No end date in sight. No accountability. No concern for the residents and businesses impacted. No ownership of the issues.

Heads should roll, starting with the overpaid head of Metrolinx and the point people on the project.

But they won’t.

It’s as if accountability has gone off the rails, along with the project itself.

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