Metrolinx refuses to share progress and problems with Eglinton LRT

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Transportation Minister weighs in on LRT delays
WATCH: Transportation Minister weighs in on LRT delays – Dec 11, 2023

The government agency responsible for handling Ontario’s massive transit expansion is refusing to disclose a list of the issues that persist with Toronto’s years-delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT, as questions about when the line will carry passengers continue.

Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency leading the project, said last year there were hundreds of technical issues that needed to be fixed before construction could end.

A request filed by Global News for a list of ongoing problems, along with an attempt to view monthly construction progress reports by the contractor building the route, was denied.

Privacy officials with Metrolinx knocked two separate freedom of information requests about the line and claimed releasing the information could cause economic damage to the provincial government and even harm the future safety of the line.

‘We’ve been transparent’

As work continues on the beleaguered light rail system, Global News sought to understand the problems that persist with Eglinton Crosstown LRT and how the consortium building the route is measuring its progress.

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The two separate freedom of information requests were rejected by Metrolinx in their entirety.

The first request was for the latest list of ongoing testing and operating issues. The second sought monthly status reports the consortium building the line, Crosslinx Transit Solutions, sends to Metrolinx.

Click to play video: 'Metrolinx head stays quiet on Crosstown LRT opening despite mid-2024 hints'
Metrolinx head stays quiet on Crosstown LRT opening despite mid-2024 hints

Crosslinx sends monthly progress updates to Metrolinx. As part of those updates, the consortium reportedly includes information around the line’s milestones.

Metrolinx, however, denied both requests and claimed releasing them would impact information of third-party companies, the economic interests of the province, personal information and the security of buildings, vehicles or systems.

“We’ve been transparent with the public,” Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria insisted to Global News.

“(Metrolinx CEO) Phil (Verster) has been out in the public sharing the news as the progress has commenced with the line… we’ll continue to share those updates when we’re in front of the media.”

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Click to play video: 'Eglinton Crosstown LRT still without opening date, Metrolinx ‘not going to guess’'
Eglinton Crosstown LRT still without opening date, Metrolinx ‘not going to guess’

A Metrolinx spokesperson directed questions about the specific requests to the organization’s privacy department.

“Updates on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project have been — and will continue to be — communicated publicly,” the spokesperson said.

‘Another source of ongoing frustration’

Metrolinx’s CEO has not indicated when the Eglinton Crosstown LRT will open and the lack of updates has frustrated critics.

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“This should be a matter of public interest, we have a government that once upon a time campaigned to be the most honest, transparent and accountable government that this province has ever seen,” Ontario Liberal MPP Adil Shamji told Global News.

“It is just another source of frustration that Ontarians, and certainly the constituents in my riding of Don Valley East, are experiencing as they deal with the gridlock on Eglinton and wait for this public transit line.”

Click to play video: 'Metrolinx head refuses to give completion date for Eglinton Crosstown LRT'
Metrolinx head refuses to give completion date for Eglinton Crosstown LRT

Joel Harden, the Ontario NDP’s transport critic, said Metrolinx was an organization “shrouded in secrecy,” suggesting the type of contract relied upon to build the route has contributed to a lack of answers.

“Decisions makers like myself, journalists like yourself, who are trying to identify where the deficiencies are — the questions the public has a right to know — we can’t get answers to our questions because of someone else’s bottom line,” he told Global News. “And that isn’t the way we should build infrastructure in Ontario.”

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Harden, who has repeatedly called for Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster to be fired over the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, also said he wanted to see action from Queen’s Park.

“It’s time for the premier to step in,” he said, adding a recent auditor general report should have “sent alarm bells up to the premier’s office” and brought action.

‘They’re going to get it going’

Occasionally, Metrolinx and the Ford government have offered brief glimpses into the project and its progress.

In spring 2023, Verster said there were 260 ongoing issues identified with the project, including problems with the track. Global News’ request for a full and updated list of the deficiencies was denied by the organization.

The Metrolinx CEO also promised updates on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT every two months but has held just two briefings between September 2023 and May 2024.

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Sarkaria did not say he would tell Verster to continue with regular updates but pointed out he still makes public appearances.

“We’ll continue to work with Metrolinx and our team,” he told Global News at Queen’s Park in May. “As we do have those availabilities, we’ll continue to update on the progress of the LRT.”

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Eglinton LRT builders claim they have no way to ‘control or restrain’ TTC demands

Asked in February if he would direct Verster to hold more, Premier Doug Ford said he was frustrated by the project’s progress.

“To be very frank, it’s very frustrating, to say the least, but I’m confident they’re going to get it going,” the premier said. “The number one priority is it’s safe, we don’t want to have the Ottawa situation that happened.”

The Metrolinx spokesperson said that “specific details on the date and location for the next technical briefing will be communicated in the future.”

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Harden meanwhile said he thought there was “zero value” in the updates, which he said were “vague.”

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