It’s an extension in Vaughan that has been ready for months, but a legal battle between the Ontario government and a consortium of contractors means a continuation of Highway 427 is being kept from opening.
The dispute involving a 6.6-kilometre extension of Highway 427 to Major MacKenzie Drive West from Highway 7, which is currently set to cost $616 million in the end, centres around safety.
The provincial government alleged the builders didn’t make it safe enough and the group of contractors, known as Link427, alleged the government changed the rules during the project, forcing the matter to court.
The project began in 2017 was set to open in September. However, in court documents filed in late April and obtained with Global News, Link427 claimed the government is “abusing its power to force it to do costly last-minute upgrades without compensation.”
The lawsuit claimed the changes the government is requesting include repaving to new requirements and changes that wouldn’t affect safe use of the road, and that they don’t have to happen until the next phase of construction.
The documents stated those upgrades were never bargained for and that without being paid for what Link427 has already done, it is on the precipice of default with its lenders and depriving its subcontractors and suppliers of badly needed holdback funds.
The lawsuit also claimed the highway is complete and has been certified safe by an independent auditor. It alleged the consultant that’s supposed to certify their work hasn’t done their job, and sided with the province from the beginning.
Lawyers for Link427 are calling on the Ontario government to release its substantial completion payment, a milestone in the contract and a phase in construction, of over $144.7 million. The consortium asked for the government to pay them the money they’re owed up to this point, any legal fees that come from this lawsuit, and any damages the court sees fit.
A spokesperson for Link427 offered no comment on the matter when asked by Global News.
As for when the road could open, a spokesperson for Infrastructure Ontario insisted even with the legal issues, they hope to the Highway 427 extension will open sometime in 2021.
Meanwhile, the claims made in the lawsuit haven’t been tested in court yet. The matter is set to be heard in a Toronto court on May 17.
— With files from Nick Westoll