Eglinton Crosstown LRT facing another delay, a ‘heartbreaking’ development for local business

A legal battle that pitted the provincial transit agency Metrolinx against the contractors building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT reached a conclusion this week, which could mean yet another delay to the transit line’s opening date.

News of the possible delay has local business owners bracing for more disruption and additional time spent operating in what is essentially an active construction zone along major portions of Eglinton Avenue.

“It’s really heartbreaking to hear,” said Beni Bouka, the owner of Beni Boo Styles, a clothing store near Eglinton Avenue West and Dufferin Street.

“We are losing sales, and we are losing foot traffic to the neighbourhood and customers coming into the neighbourhood to patronize.”

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which will include 25 stations across a 19-kilometre stretch of Eglinton Avenue, has been under construction since 2011 and has had its opening date pushed back multiple times.

The latest target set by Metrolinx calls for the line to go into service sometime in 2022. It was scheduled to open in 2020 when the project was first announced.

Beni Bouka, the owner of Beni Boo Styles on Eglinton Avenue West, says the closure of neighbouring businesses and prolonged construction has made it hard to attract customers. (Beni Boo/Submitted)

But that opening date could now be in jeopardy after a decision by the Ontario Superior Court in favour of Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the construction consortium building the line.

Crosslinx successfully argued that the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an emergency, which could allow the two sides to renegotiate terms of their agreement, including costs and opening dates.

The acknowledgement of an emergency, which Metrolinx had resisted, could allow Crosslinx to recoup some of the $134 million it claims to have faced in unexpected costs.

Details of the decision were first reported by Ben Spurr of the Toronto Star.

Delay another sign of poor management, local councillor says

Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents part of the area in which the LRT will operate, described the ruling as a sign of poor project management.

“The constant tussle between Metrolinx and the contractor [has] meant delays to the project, more time while businesses are boarded up, more time where residents are dealing with traffic in their neighbourhoods,” Matlow told CBC Toronto.

“While we are waiting for the dream to come true with a new LRT, life has been a nightmare through the construction,” he added.

Matlow has for years been calling on the provincial government to provide financial support to businesses affected by the LRT’s construction.

The province pledged $3 million in March 2020 to support businesses in the area.

Metrolinx aiming to open ‘as soon as possible’

In an email to CBC Toronto, Metrolinx said it is “presently considering the implications of this decision” and could not comment further on the issue. 

The agency did not provide any updated cost estimates or opening dates, which are understood to be in flux as a result of the court decision.

“Our goal has always been, and remains, to get the Crosstown project completed and open for the people of Toronto as soon as possible,” said spokesperson Fannie Sunshine in a statement.

Crosslinx also declined an interview with CBC News, but said in an email that it was “pleased” by the decision. The group said it took on additional costs to keep workers safe during the pandemic, which caused some delays.

Spokesperson Kristin Jenkins said the decision “provides the path for Crosslinx, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario to fairly resolve these issues so that the project can be completed as quickly as possible.”

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