The group of companies responsible for building Toronto’s long-delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT project is taking legal action against the Ontario government, arguing that the province hasn’t done enough to minimize “undue interference” from the TTC.
Crosslinx Transit Solutions filed an application in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday against the province and its transit agency, Metrolinx, alleging that requests from the Toronto Transit Commission to make changes to the project have caused significant delays and increased costs.
CTS is responsible for constructing the 19-kilometre light rail transit line from the city’s west end to Kennedy Station in Scarborough through a public-private partnership with the province. It is made up of large-scale construction companies ACS-Dragados, Aecon Group Inc., EllisDon Corp. and SNC-Lavalin.
The transit project has been under construction since 2011 and faced significant delays. It was initially supposed to open in 2020, but there is currently no timeline for its completion. Metrolinx confirmed it will not open this year. Work on the project hasn’t stopped despite the current dispute between CTS and the Ontario government.
The TTC is slated to be the operator of the line once it is up and running, but an official operating agreement between the parties hasn’t been finalized.
CTS alleges in its court submission that Metrolinx has breached their obligations under the project agreement, and that the lack of a formal contract with an operator means the TTC doesn’t have boundaries or responsibilities guiding its involvement on the project. CTS is seeking a court ruling that they have no obligation to continue working on the project until an operator is formally appointed, which could result in further delays.
“Crosslinx is left in an impossible situation where it must meet obligations that depend on the actions of another party who has no reciprocal contractual obligations,” the group says in the court document, also claiming that the TTC has made many requests inconsistent with the project agreement.
“It has become clear that the TTC’s preferences for how the project should progress are significantly out of step with the scheme that Crosslinx agreed to under the project agreement.”
Responding to the claims, Metrolinx countered in a statement to The Globe and Mail that there is no obligation under the project agreement to enter into a contract with the operator before the project is complete and that CTS has known the TTC would be the operator since 2015.
The TTC wasn’t named in the lawsuit, which contains allegations that haven’t been tested in court. In a statement, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said discussions to finalize operating agreements are continuing and the service is committed to operating the line upon opening.
Both Metrolinx and the Ontario government have characterized the legal action as a “delay tactic” by the contractor. Despite there not being a signed agreement, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney told reporters that the TTC has been at the table from the beginning and that it needs a transit system that is safe for its operators to test.
Ms. Mulroney called the legal action “unacceptable” and said she had previously asked for CTS to provide a credible schedule and a timeline for completion this week.
Metrolinx president and chief executive officer Phil Verster said in a Tuesday morning statement that the agency will defend the latest legal challenge and work to ensure the cost of delays are placed on CTS. Significant payments are already being withheld because of poor performance, he said.
Metrolinx previously had to pay an extra $325-million to cover COVID-19 related costs in response to a legal challenge by CTS. And while the project was initially expected to cost $8.2-billion, the price tag has reportedly ballooned to $12.8-billion.
“CTS’s behaviour continues to be disappointing, especially for our Toronto communities who have been waiting patiently for the completion of this project,” Mr. Verster said in the statement.
Mr. Verster, who declined a Globe interview request, told reporters last month there were 260 “quality issues” on the line needing to be addressed, mostly related to track work.
Toronto Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said she is disappointed and frustrated with this latest barrier on the project. She called on Premier Doug Ford to call for a roundtable to bring all the parties together for a meeting to find a solution.