Councillors call for public inquiry into Eglinton Crosstown ‘boondoggle’

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Councillors demand inquiry into Eglinton Crosstown ‘boondoggle’
WATCH: Councillors demand inquiry into Eglinton Crosstown ‘boondoggle’ – Dec 9, 2022

Toronto city councillors Josh Matlow and Mike Colle are calling for a public inquiry into the Eglinton Crosstown project after sharing leaked confidential internal Metrolinx documents that suggest there is no “credible plan” to complete the project.

“This is a historic boondoggle, billions of dollars, years of delays,” said Matlow.

“It’s both taxpayer’s money but it’s also the loss of income from so many small businesses, the impact on the quality of life of residents,” he added.

A public inquiry is necessary to understand how to get this project completed, said Matlow, “but also to avoid this debacle from ever happening again.”

Colle said the documents, dated October 2022, were shared by a “disgruntled employee” and highlighted a number of failures and issues in place more than 10 years since construction began.

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“The project, which started at $5.6 billion, has now ballooned to $12.8 billion. $12.8 billion, that’s $7 billion over budget and Metrolinx won’t explain why they’re $7 billion over project, where’s the money gone and they won’t explain why they can’t finish the job,” said Colle.

Global News reviewed the documents, which state, “Testing and Commissioning (T&C) schedule is continuing to be overly ambitious and not achievable: The future project plan is ambitious … and items are not ready for T&C.”

“This document confirms our suspicions that we need a public inquiry,” Colle said, adding, “there’s safety features they can’t fix. There’s water problems they can’t fix. Platforms they can’t fix. They can’t figure out a plan with the TTC to hand over .. they don’t know how to get this done.”

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Colle said Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney “refuses to take responsibility.”

At a transit news conference earlier Friday, Mulroney was asked about providing transparency regarding the Crosstown project.

“I know that people are so frustrated by this project … we want to make sure that Crosslinx and Metrolinx work out those technical issues, we all want it to open as soon as possible,” said Mulroney.

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Mayor John Tory said he is not in favour of an inquiry into the handling of the Crosstown LRT.

“I don’t think a public inquiry is the answer. I think the answer is to get on with getting it finished … it is time for greater transparency of the fact there is a plan, some greater specific information with respect to the dates involved with those plans and what the financial consequences might be,” he said.

Councillors Matlow and Colle said they will move their motion for an inquiry next week at city council. They will withdraw their demand if Metrolinx and the province provide answers.

“The public has a right to know what the hell is going on here,” said Colle.

Longtime Eglinton Avenue resident Lynn Van Buskirk said she worries about the dust in the air in her community.

“We look at this and then we think, when will it ever be completed?” she said.

Meantime, business owners along Eglinton Avenue West told Global News they are losing faith that the project will ever be completed.

“If you throw billions and billions and billions at anything, it’ll probably never get finished, there’s a good chance it’ll be a white elephant,” said Peter Cook, owner of The Fireplace Shop.

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“It is frustrating and these guys are accountable for this … we used to have pretty good customers, the traffic was more than it is now and we don’t know, we are just waiting day by day to see what is happening in the future,” said Hassan Aghili, owner of Vivace Boutique.

Over at TNT Eglinton, sales associate Sandra Marinescu said the shop now provides a delivery service because clients were having difficulty finding parking along Eglinton due to the constant construction.

“We adjusted the way we do business … I get phone calls from clients who say, ‘Sandra, I really want to come see you but the parking on the Eglinton, I can’t!’ Even like five years in, people were like, ‘Oh I’ll come see you when the construction is over!’ but that hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

The councillors also raised the need for compensation for the businesses and residents impacted by the delays to the project and a free Eglinton TTC bus.

A spokesperson for Metrolinx sent Global News a statement in response to a request for comment.

“We are actively working to get the Eglinton Crosstown LRT open as soon as possible,” the statement read. “The public needs transit that is effective and reliable from the onset and we will only accept completion once we are satisfied that this has been achieved. Metrolinx will continue to push Crosslinx Transit Solutions to ensure this project is completed.”


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