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Mulroney acknowledges delays ‘frustrating’ amid reports that Metrolinx has ‘no idea’ when Eglinton Crosstown will open

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Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said Friday that the latest delays to the long-overdue Eglinton Crosstown light rail line are necessary in order to ensure that the line operates properly, but offered few specifics on the problems as two city councillors called for an inquiry into the project.

Speaking with reporters at a separate transit announcement Friday, Mulroney suggested Metrolinx needs more time to ensure that the line runs smoothly and safely.

“I know that people are so frustrated by this project,” Mulroney said. “It's been going on for a very long time.”

She said there are “technical issues that still need to be worked out,” but declined to answer a question about whether she would agree to brief the media to provide transparency about the cause of the delays.

“Our government has been clear with Metrolinx and Crosslinx. We want it to open as soon as possible,” Mulroney said. “People are frustrated, but they deserve a system that operates well and that operates safely when it does and that has been our focus since the beginning.”

Coun. Josh Matlow told CP24 Friday morning that documents leaked to him and Coun. Mike Colle suggest Metrolinx “has no idea” when the project will be finished, that its delay is the result of multiple problems, and that it is now running $1 billion over its projected budget.

“There's a litany of problems within this confidential document that was leaked to us that demonstrates dozens of failures still yet to be resolved,” Matlow said. “And what's clear to me is that the real issues seem to be between the consortium, the contractors, and Metrolinx themselves.”

CP24 has not seen the documents but one other news outlet has reported on them so far. 

Matlow said they show that “Metrolinx has spent more time it seems over the past few years in court, losing these arguments than actually being able to meet completion dates.”

The two councillors held a news conference Friday calling for an inquiry into the delays.

“The public has a right to know what the hell is going on here on Eglinton,” Colle said.

He said the documents paint a picture of an organization with “no credible plan” for completing the multi-billion dollar project.

“They can't figure out the safety issues, they can’t figure out the flooding issues, they can’t basically give us answers on an end date,” Colle said. “They used to say ‘next year, next year.’ Now they say ‘we don't know.’”

In a statement, Metrolinx said it is actively working to get the LRT open as soon as possible.

"The public needs transit that is effective and reliable from the onset and we will only accept completion once we are satisfied that this has been achieved. Metrolinx will continue to push Crosslinx Transit Solutions to ensure this project is completed," the agency said.

Construction began on the Eglinton Crosstown in 2011 and it was supposed to be complete back in 2020, but there have been numerous delays and cost overruns associated with the project. Metrolinx — the provincial agency charged with building the project — said in September that despite a fall target date for having the work substantially completed, the line is not yet close to opening. The agency gave no new target date for when the project might be complete.

The province has also spent time in court fighting with Crosslinx— the construction consortium hired by Metrolinx to build the line — over who is responsible for COVID-related delays and cost overruns.

While some have called for an inquiry into the handling of the project, Mayor John Tory reiterated Friday that he doesn't think that would be productive.

“I don't think a public inquiry is the answer. I think the answer is to get on with getting it finished,” Tory said, adding that an inquiry would only benefit lawyers.

However he did agree that the public deserves more transparency around the delays.

“It was suggested to me yesterday that Metrolinx doesn't have a plan. I'm sure they do. But I think it is time for a greater transparency of the fact there is a plan, some greater specific information with respect to the dates involved with those plans, and what the financial consequences might be.”

The project has been a source of frustration for area residents, businesses and those passing through the area, with ongoing intersection closures and diversions to accommodate the seemingly never-ending work.

Matlow pushed back against the suggestion that an inquiry would be a waste, saying, “They are just about to begin projects like the Ontario Line, so all of us not only deserve answers as to what went wrong here for transparency sake and for accountability, but also to learn lessons so that this model that they use – which was really a disaster – does not happen again.”

Colle said the province should provide some sort of compensation for businesses because of the delays and should make the Eglinton bus free until the line is completed.

The union representing transit workers in Canada voiced their support for a public inquiry, saying that Metrolinx and the Ford government have failed to respond to the LRT delays and they should be held accountable.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada is urging the city and the province to launch the inquiry immediately.

“We need safe, reliable and on-time expansions of public transit without the exorbitant cost,” said John Di Nino, president of ATU Canada.

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