The companies building the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown in Toronto, Canada’s biggest transit project, have gone to court seeking more time and money to finish the already delayed light-rail line.
The construction consortium doing the project has filed a notice of motion alleging that actions by Metrolinx, the regional transit agency, and others have delayed their work. The legal salvo comes after talks between Metrolinx and the consortium failed to settle continuing disputes about the project.
Metrolinx has not responded in court to the claims, and said in a statement that it remains “committed” to the target date of opening the line in the fall of 2021.
A spokeswoman for Crosslinx Transit Solutions, a partnership of infrastructure giants that is building the project, would not elaborate on the legal filing. The partnership includes companies such as Aecon, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin.
“What I’ll confirm with you is we’ve filed a notice of action against Metrolinx for a breach of contract,” Kristin Jenkins said. “But beyond that we’re not going to get into the details. The process is under way.”
Crosslinx is seeking compensation for increased costs, for which they blame the defendants.
Ms. Jenkins would not clarify how much money or time Crosslinx wants, or whether the request to extend to timeline is an insurance policy or an acknowledgement the consortium cannot meet the 2021 deadline.
Crosslinx’s notice of motion was filed on Tuesday in Ontario Superior Court. Metrolinx has 30 days to respond with a statement of defence.
The Crosstown is a 19-kilometre light-rail line across the city’s midtown. The central portion is underground, and the parts at either end are to run on the surface.
The project is a public-private partnership, an arrangement in which the private sector is intended to absorb cost overruns. As the legal filing shows, the question of who is responsible for delays can be contentious.
The Crosstown was initially supposed to be ready in the fall of 2020. Metrolinx added a year to the timeline about three years ago, with the minister of transportation at the time saying the delay would help mitigate disruption.
However, the construction done so far on the Crosstown, particularly the underground work, has brought a wave of complaints from the neighbourhoods through which it will run. Complaints include traffic havoc, noise and other problems. Any extension of these issues will make residents furious, a local politician warned.
“Everyone supports the dream of improved rapid transit, but the construction process is a nightmare, and nobody wants that nightmare to continue a day or night longer than it needs to,” said Councillor Josh Matlow, through whose ward the line will run.
“If it does become a situation where there’s going to be another delay, watch out. The anger will be something that I don’t think we’ve ever heard from before … it’ll be fireworks.”
The Crosslinx notice of motion alleges that the defendants, which include Metrolinx and the Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corporation, breached the terms of the construction agreement and that “a number of events and circumstances” delayed work. According to the legal filing, these were “beyond the reasonable control” of Crosslinx and “many resulted in the actions and inactions” of the defendants “and others.”
The claim alleges that work by utility companies took longer than the time set out by the defendants, and that there were problems with “permits, licenses and approvals.”
Ms. Jenkins, the Crosslinx spokeswoman, would not provide further details on the claims. The lawyer whose name was listed in the filing did not respond on Wednesday afternoon to a call seeking comment.
In an e-mailed statement, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster expressed hope a resolution can be reached.
“Metrolinx has been working closely with Crosslinx over several months on their alleged reasons for a claim,” he said. “As with any contract, claims are considered and reviewed thoroughly and we continue to work with Crosslinx to reach an outcome that fairly addresses the challenges that they have encountered on Eglinton.”