Despite the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) facing multiple setbacks throughout the project, the president and CEO of Metrolinx says the coronavirus pandemic isn’t jeopardizing the opening of the line in 2022.
“It’s all new. The playbook has changed. COVID has changed how we do stuff and that has been important for us,” Phil Verster told Global News during a tour of Mount Dennis station, the western terminus of the line.
The $5.3-billion project recently marked a notable milestone at the Mount Dennis station. A LRT train was able to leave the Mount Dennis storage facility and travel over an elevated section of track and enter into an underground section of the 19-kilometre, 25-stop line east of Black Creek Drive.
Originally scheduled to open in 2020, the project was pushed back to 2021. Metrolinx announced in mid-February the opening wouldn’t happen until “well into 2022,” citing issues such as a delay in a start in construction, a delay in the finalizing of designs and construction issues at the interchange station at Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue.
Businesses along the Eglinton Avenue corridor have faced difficulty operating due to extended construction. The Ontario government announced in early March that it was providing an additional $3 million to help with marketing, promotions, and clean-up assistance. Multiple business owners called for more direct support though.
Verster said the project has been affected to “some extent” in terms of productivity due to required health checks, changing the scopes of work, delays in materials due to COVID-19-related impacts to the supply chain, adding the line hasn’t been impacted “significantly.”
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He said the revised plans for opening in 2022 are still on schedule, but wasn’t able to commit to a month when trains would begin operations.
Verster said even with lower vehicle volumes along the project corridor, it hasn’t allowed workers to expedite construction work on a whole. However, he said there has been accelerated progress on the above-ground sections of the line east of Laird Avenue.
When it comes to other Metrolinx projects, he said construction has been expedited. On the Barrie GO Transit rail line, he said train service was converted to bus service with passenger volumes dramatically lower.
“We’ve been trying to get the best out of the situation,” he said.
Verster said work on the Davenport Diamond project in Toronto, a rail grade separation project needed to add rail capacity as part of a two-way, all-day rail service plan on the Barrie GO train line, has been accelerated.
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