Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS) — the design and construction consortium building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT — has initiated legal action against Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario in response to their refusal to “declare COVID-19 an emergency and recognize the significant impacts the global pandemic” is having on the $5.4-billion dollar transit project.
This comes as CTS says it performed an analysis that showed the first wave of COVID-19 added upwards of $134 million in unexpected costs caused by the pandemic and warned the second wave could raise this price tag even higher.
Crosslinx spokesperson Kristin Jenkins said launching the lawsuit was an “extraordinary step” that came after the company made “repeated efforts” to work collaboratively with the two provincial agencies, which, ultimately, “failed.”
“Metrolinx’s and Infrastructure Ontario’s refusal to address COVID-19 impacts could now result in additional LRT project delays and legal costs for Ontario taxpayers,” said Jenkins.
“Crosslinx is taking legal action with deep regret. However, the impacts of the pandemic are real, and Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario have left us with no choice – we must act in the best interest of our workers and partners,” said Jenkins.
“Crosslinx, Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will now have to dedicate time and resources to resolving this matter through the courts instead of working together to adapt to emergency conditions and mitigate further construction delays.”
The company says it’s blaming Metrolinx for the soaring costs on a range of factors, including implementing provincially-mandated COVID-19 health and safety protocols, high rates of “COVID-related absenteeism,” and supply chain problems.
What’s more, Crosslinx says its subcontractors are also facing similar problems, and that it has received hundreds of notices requesting relief in the form of more time or more money.
The company already sued Metrolinx in 2018 over the megaproject’s timeline. That lawsuit has since been settled.
Crosslinx is attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to excuse its years of poor performance. Read the statement from our CEO, Phil Verster, on why getting the Eglinton Crosstown back on schedule, not litigation, must be the focus. https://t.co/xJw0N4qEZ3
— Metrolinx (@Metrolinx) October 8, 2020
Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster has since publicly rejected Crosslinx’s claims and said the company is “attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to excuse its years of poor performance.”
In a statement, Vester said Crosslinx has “consistently failed, month after month, for two years, to achieve their production rates,” noting since 2018, only 72% of planned work has been completed.
“On February 18, 2020, well before COVID-19 hit us, we already declared that CTS was not going to meet their completion date of September 2021 and that the project was unfortunately going to be delayed well into 2022. Since our announcement, CTS’s performance has not improved, despite our active support.”
Vester added there’s a dispute resolution process in place and urged Crosslinx to use that, rather than the courts to solve its issues.
“Rather than legal action, we need CTS to focus on what is most important — getting the Eglinton project completed,” Vester said.
When completed, the Eglinton Crosstown will be a 19-kilometre light rail transit line that will run along Eglinton Avenue with 10 km underground and 9 km at-grade. The Crosstown will connect Mount Dennis in the west to Kennedy subway station in the east.
Owned by Metrolinx and operated by the TTC, the LRT will be up to 60% faster than the bus service today. Twenty-five stations and stops will provide connections to three TTC subway stations, 54 TTC bus routes, three GO Transit lines and the UP Express.
To date, the project is 70% complete and over 32 kilometres of track (66%) has been installed and vehicle testing has begun. It’s expected that three underground stations will be largely complete by the end of 2020.