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Monday, May 13, 2013

TTC expresses concern over Eglinton rail line timeline

Construction on the Eglinton Crosstown line is already behind schedule, as construction crews grapple with unexpected electrical and water pipes underneath Eglinton Avenue and Keele Street, according to senior Metrolinx staff. The news emerged as Toronto Transit Commissioners voted to mute a TTC report critical of the plans that Metrolinx is putting in place to have the light rail line up and running by 2020.
Metrolinx VP of Rapid Transit Implementation, Jack Collins, told reporters that the $5-billion project is already behind schedule.
"There's been a slight delay at the launch shaft site in moving utilities, as there are water and Hydro utilities there that we weren't aware of," said Collins, who said Metrolinx was pleased that the TTC had affirmed its support of the Metrolinx plan.
That support came after a report from TTC staff that pointed out several "concerns" about the Metrolinx plan to build and own the light rail line itself, using public-private partnerships with contractors to help finance the project.
The TTC report said the timeline for completion of the project is too ambitious, and it would more realistically be completed by 2023. The report also said it was unlikely having private-sector partners help finance the plan could end up boosting the cost by as much as $40 million.
And it said that a plan to build all of the stations in the underground portion of the line at once could result in problems in the communities along the line.
The report also suggested that Metrolinx begin work on the Sheppard LRT a year earlier than scheduled, in 2013.
But TTC Chief Executive Officer Andy Byford said the critique wasn't meant to undermine the project, which is being paid for by Infrastructure Ontario and owned by Metrolinx.
"We're as one wanting to get on with these projects," said Byford. "The only reason we submitted the report today was because of a number of concerns we had."
Byford maintained that the TTC is still skeptical that the ambitious timelines can work.
"In our professional opinion we still think that's a very tight time scale," he said. "Not that it can't be done but it would be very tight and would have implications for constrution."
Byford admitted that it was important that the public know who was responsible for the line. All other TTC projects have been constructed and managed by the commission itself. This one is a provincial project.
"I think one of the issues for me that is very important that the general public, the citizens of Toronto, know whose building these... the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown, it's important that people know it's Metrolinx," he said.
"Not to apportion blame, but if people have concerns about community consultation, they shouldn't be mistaken in thinking it's the TTC's project."
Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Josh Colle was anxious to move the project forward as quickly as possible, and moved a motion to affirm the TTC's support of Metrolinx's schedule.
"We're letting them know we're full partners and intend to be there throughout the whole project," he said. "The commission wanted to clearly send the message that we're at the table."

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