Residents, businesses want answers, support after Eglinton Crosstown line delayed indefinitely
After more than a decade of dusty, noisy construction, people who live and operate businesses along Toronto’s Eglinton Avenue were looking forward to the new Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) line finally opening this fall.
However, just over a week ago, Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for regional transit in the GTA, announced in a blog post that the $5.5 billion project’s completion is once again being pushed back. They said the consortium hired to build the line has “fallen behind schedule, (is) unable to finalize construction and testing.” No definite timeline for when the new LRT will open was provided.
“It’s disappointing, but people were not surprised. There’s construction materials on the street and hoarding every where. There was no way they were going to meet their timeline,” said Louroz Mercader, who manages the York-Eglinton Business Improvement Area (BIA), which is home to the hard-hit Little Jamaica neighbourhood.
“There’s no end in sight. It’s hard for us as a business community to plan ahead. We can’t look to the future. It’s such a mess. We can’t plan anything.”
The new transit line was initially slated to be completed by 2020 but construction has been plagued by delays.
In October 2020 the consortium responsible for the line's construction, Crosslinx Transit Sollutions, filed a lawsuit against Metrolinx and Infrastructre Ontario in which they argued that they should not be held accountable for delays or cost overruns because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A judge sided with the consortium and the two sides renegotiated an agreement in December 2021 that would have seen the line substantially completed by September 2022 and in operation several months later.
The project, however, has been delayed and once again the patience of people who live nearby has evaporated.
“We’re now going on 12 years of dealing with this,” long-time area resident Sophie Milman, of the recently formed Cedarvale and Upper Village Community Association, told CP24.com.
Milman said aside from the noise and mess, people are driving unsafely through construction zones in her area and cutting through already tight side streets to avoid slower-moving main roads.
Lora Sloan, who founded the new community group, said last week’s news, although not a surprise, was “unexpected” as community members, local politicians, and even Metrolinx representatives had done walkabout just two days before the LRT delay was announced.
“We were told then that the construction would be out of the neighbourhood by the end of the year,” she said.
“The community’s trust has been eroded by the lack of communication from Metrolinx. Even the city was not aware of what’s happening as updates are not being provided. We feel in the dark and our councillors are equally clueless.”
Metrolinx did not respond to CP24.com’s multiple requests for comment.
Equally frustrated by the ongoing delays and what they both call a “lack of transparency,” councillors Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) and Josh Matlow (Toronto-St. Pauls) said they intend to file a motion at the first city council meeting after the Oct. 24 municipal election that would call on the province to undertake a public inquiry into why the Eglinton LRT is taking so long to complete and what can be done to ensure the myriad of delays and issues encountered while building this new transit line do not repeat themselves.
Colle said a public inquiry is the best way for the city to get answers.
“(Metrolinx) obviously has something to hide, that’s for sure. … (People) have suffered enough,” he said..
“This is the largest public transit construction project in North America and we’ve got a bunch of incompetent people who are not telling the truth about it.”
Colle said he and Matlow are working with several local BIAs and residents groups to drum up support for the inquiry so that city council supports it.
“We really want to hold Metrolinx and the province to account,” he said.
Matlow said the impacts of this LRT project, which have been exacerbated by numerous delays, are unbearable for area residents and unsustainable for local businesses.
“This is not just a little bit of traffic, it’s horrible. And for small businesses, every month that this is delayed is another month of hanging on by a thread. Many have already gone under,” he said, noting a public inquiry would serve two purposes: to provide those directly impacted with the information they deserve and to ensure such a “mismanaged and incompetently executed project” doesn’t happen again elsewhere.
“There needs to be a real understanding of why this project has been so screwed up and not do it again,” Matlow said, adding communities along the line are being treated as “collateral damage.”
“There needs to be a plan to support both residents and businesses who are negatively affected by these major transit projects. … Enough is enough.”
Toronto-St. Paul’s MPP Jill Andrew said people in her riding, especially those living in Little Jamaica and Midtown are “dismayed to learn of yet another (LRT) delay.”
“It is especially difficult on Black-owned small business owners and store owners along Eglinton. Many businesses have closed, employers have been unable to keep staff on payroll because customers simply aren’t able to access many of the businesses they once did due to over a decade of construction promises and the dual devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she wrote in a statement provided to CP24.com.
Andrew said the Province must immediately pass her motion to provide “financial supports for Little Jamaica and small businesses in midtown disproportionately hurt by these delays.”
First introduced in late 2020, it calls on the Ontario government to implement a 'Little Jamaica' Small Business Economic Health and Community Wellness Strategy that among other things provides $30,000 in compensation for struggling local businesses.
The motion also proposes a mandated task force to ensure transparent communication between Metrolinx, the Ministry of Transportation, and Little Jamaica businesses, and the historical designation of the neighbourhood to “recognize its unique arts and culture contributions and ensuring affordable housing is included in all new builds.”
The NDP is also demanding that the Ford government defer HST payments for a specified period of time to help struggling local businesses in the interim and commit to a commercial eviction ban.
Like her municipal counterparts as well as area residents and local business owners, Andrew said Metrolinx and the Province must immediately provide answers and accountability for the ongoing LRT construction delays.
She also said she’s in favour of a public inquiry, underlining that it mustn’t “become another stall tactic or report collecting dust on the shelves.”
“(A public inquiry) needs to express what went wrong and what will be done to make this right for people of Toronto-St. Paul’s and beyond and community needs to be on board,” Andrew said.
“Many community members have contacted me frustrated about the unbearable noise pollution and traffic jams caused by these construction delays. The government needs to give our community concrete answers as per the deadline of this construction, create and deploy immediate grants tailored to cover losses, keep staff on payroll, and cover rent.”
Mercader, of the York-Eglinton BIA, said the local business community has long called for a public inquiry.
“It could set the standard for how these projects are handled. … It’s in everyone’s best interest that these (major transit) projects are done properly,” he said.
“I think it’s important we learn from the mistakes that have happened and are continuing to happen. … We can’t be making the same ones over and over again.”
Mercader also said a compensation plan needs to be put in place to support businesses directly impacted by major transit projects.
“By the time the Eglinton LRT opens most of these businesses aren’t going to be there any more,” he said, pointing to an initiaitve in Montreal where the province set aside $25 million to help local businesses survive during major transit construction.
Both “cautiously supportive” of a public inquiry, area residents Milman and Sloan said they also want comprehensive construction impact mitigation efforts implemented now, especially since the Eglinton Crosstown has been essentially delayed indefinitely.
“A public inquiry shouldn’t be a replacement for actual compensation and support. … Something needs to be done to make things more manageable for the community until the job is done,” said Milman, noting the municipality also needs to play a stronger role and have a stronger voice in supporting communities hard hit by this project.
“This (inquiry) shouldn’t be a way for Metrolinx to say they’re doing something. We are asking for immediate help or a reprieve now,” she said, adding a public inquiry is a good way to inform those working on future transit projects, notably the Ontario Line.
-with files from CP24’s Joshua Freeman
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Inside Biden's agonizing decision to take a deal that freed Brittney Griner but left Paul Whelan in Russia
Despite U.S. President Joe Biden's attempts to link WNBA star Brittney Griner's case to that of Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested on espionage charges in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison two years later, it became plain that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not budge.
Chiefs at the Assembly of First Nations voted Thursday to publicly oppose the Liberal government's proposed gun-control legislation and stand against sovereignty bills in Alberta and Saskatchewan's legislatures.
Canadian singer Celine Dion was diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome, a rare neurological condition with no cure, forcing her to take a step away from her world tour.
A new list by OpenTable shows the 100 "most beloved" Canadian restaurants in 2022, based on more than one million reviews.
Jennifer Lawrence shared her thoughts on the history of female-led action movies in a new interview, but the 'Hunger Games' star is getting some flack for not quite getting it right.
The much-anticipated docu-series 'Harry & Meghan' has finally dropped on Netflix, to the delight of fans of the couple, and the consternation to those who have had just about enough of the royal pair. Royal commentator Afua Hagan outlines the five main takeaways from the first three episodes of the six-part series.
The RCMP has suspended a controversial contract it had awarded to a Canadian company whose parent organization has ties to the Chinese government, CTV News has confirmed.
A woman is dead and another has serious injuries after a stabbing at High Park subway station in Toronto on Thursday afternoon.
When someone calls 911 to report a crime, a dispatcher has just seconds to react. When all goes to plan, police will be on their way in a matter of moments, ready to respond to an emergency. However, the responding officer will only have seconds’ worth of information to work with, and sometimes, that caller’s information is affected by racial bias, experts say.
A Quebec judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit against the maker of the popular online video game, Fortnite, after parents of three children who played it argued it was too 'addictive.'
Montreal police are investigating after they say a 16-year-old was shot by a suspect wielding an air gun near an elementary school in Anjou.
Middlesex County OPP are investigating after a fatal collision between an SUV and pickup truck in Lucan Biddulph claimed the life of one person Thursday afternoon.
A quintessential London restaurant is closing its doors after a final New Year ’s Eve celebration. Founded in 1983, Michaels on the Thames as it’s known now will close its doors “for a few weeks for a refresh and renovations,” and will reopen in the new year under new owners and a new name.
A London, Ont. physiotherapist is facing a $2.65 million lawsuit filed by a female patient who claims he sexually abused her during appointments earlier this year.
Waterloo regional police have charged a 19-year-old man from Oakville in connection to a fatal collision in Wilmot Township that left a 22-year-old woman dead.
Some Waterloo region pharmacists are renewing calls for better protection after numerous pharmacies have been the target of thieves.
A Cambridge family has been displaced after an early morning house fire, and they have their neighbour to thank for alerting them to the flames.
An 18-year-old suspect has been charged after a convenience store on Lorne Street was robbed Thursday morning in Greater Sudbury.
With 2022 coming to a close, Timmins police are taking a look at its impaired driving statistics for the year and say more and more people are being charged with driving while high.
Statistics Canada recently published November's figures for unemployment rates across the country. Sault Ste. Marie's rate is well below the national and provincial rate.
Ottawa's Hillel Lodge, Centre d'Accueil Champlain and Peter D. Clark Centre are listed as long-term care homes having outbreaks, according to Ottawa Public Health.
An Ottawa police superintendent has been arrested and charged with sexual assault and breach of trust.
OC Transpo’s ridership dipped in October, a month after achieving its highest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Windsor police are asking for the public’s help in locating two individuals after a woman was sexually assaulted on Wednesday.
The LaSalle Police Service has created a simple crime prevention campaign to hopefully help curb gift card scams.
The Ontario government is allowing pharmacists in Windsor-Essex and across the province to prescribe Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment option used to reduce severe outcomes from COVID-19.
The OPP is investigating the theft of catalytic converters from vehicles at two dealerships in Mono.
A fire at the Rolling Acres Campground in New Tecumseth early Thursday morning left one man and his dog dead.
A new statue in downtown Collingwood is aiming to send a message that everyone is welcome in the community.
EXCLUSIVE | N.S. carpenter paralyzed in work injury on Highway 104 project frustrated by Workers' Compensation Board
Daily life at the MacKay household in Trenton, N.S., has changed dramatically ever since 50-year-old Matthew was paralyzed while working on the twinning of Nova Scotia Highway 104.
On top of extended wait times at Maritime emergency rooms, patients are also waiting longer periods to see specialists across Atlantic Canada.
OPINION: Steve Murphy believes one does need not be of Christian faith to wish someone a “Merry Christmas,” nor should such a greeting cause offence to those who do not observe the religious holiday.
The recent death of actress Kirstie Alley has CTV News anchor Jocelyn Laidlaw contemplating her own situation, and the message she can offer to others.
It's unwelcome news for Canadians as the holidays approach: there's yet another thing driving inflation this year.
Police pulled up and parked behind the stolen truck, exited their cruiser and began approaching the vehicle.
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice and had an assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 29 saves and the Winnipeg Jets beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Thursday night.
First Nations leaders in Manitoba are calling for the resignation of Winnipeg's police chief after the force decided to not search a landfill for the remains of two Indigenous women.
B.C. mask debate: Divide between frontline doctors and public health amid concerns of politicized office
Soaring respiratory infections among children have frontline health-care workers pleading for the revival of mask usage, something the provincial health officer remains lukewarm on.
B.C. health officials will now be reporting on the number of pediatric deaths from the flu weekly, a change that comes in the wake of an alarming number of fatalities this season.
A Seattle-based company has been granted salvage rights to a ship containing piles of gold that sank near the B.C. coast in the 19th century.
Eight more Albertans have died from influenza, according to the latest data update from health officials bringing the total so far this season to 24. The 2021-22 flu season had a total of 14 deaths.
Alberta’s NDP Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith's comments rejecting the legitimacy of the federal government betray her unspoken plan to lay the groundwork for eventual separation.
A new fund is hoping to honour Oilers superfan Ben Stelter's legacy and provide kids with cancer better opportunities for care.