Group building the Crosstown LRT, is now suing the government for cost overruns

Metrolinx Crosstown

The consortium building a light-rail transit project across Toronto is suing the provincial government over delays and cost overruns related to COVID-19.

Crosslinx Transit Solutions says in an application filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice today that delays to the Eglinton Crosstown project have been caused by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.

CTS is accusing the provincial agencies overseeing the transit line of breaching their contractual obligations by refusing to formally recognize the pandemic as an emergency.

Spokesperson Kristen Jenkins tells NEWSTALK1010, the main issues they've been facing include sub-contractor absenteeism, which has hit 27% at times, and trouble getting supplies both locally and internationally.

"Crosslinx reluctantly made this decision after repeated efforts to work collaboratively with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario 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." Crosslinx says in a statement.

"Like many sectors, COVID-19 has created real challenges for the construction industry. The Eglinton Crosstown project is no exception. When directed to work through the global pandemic as an essential service, our workforce of over 1,500 people along with our partner companies stepped up and continue to do so.

Collectively, we have diligently implemented strict distancing, sanitation and contact tracing protocols to keep workers and the public safe, at the same time as we have continued to build a major new transit line.

These necessary provincially-mandated protocols, combined with high rates of COVID-related absenteeism and problems in the domestic, national and global supply chains, have slowed the rate of construction and productivity is down."

Jenkins says the first wave of the pandemic has cost $134 million, a number that is expected to rise with the onset of the second wave.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster says in a statement that his agency had declared in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic had begun, that the project would not be completed on time.

Verster says that since that announcement on Feb. 18 ``CTS's performance has not improved, despite our active support.''

"CTS now suggests the COVID-19 pandemic is hurting their production. However, CTS’s lack of productivity was a problem from well before the pandemic hit. CTS has achieved their monthly production rates in only four months out of the last 26 months. Since August 2018, CTS has achieved only 72% of their planned volume of work.    

CTS went to court in 2018 and now they are now doing it again. Litigation, while not surprising, is not what is required now. There is a dispute resolution process in the contract and CTS should follow that. Rather than legal action, we need CTS to focus on what is most important – getting the Eglinton project completed." says the statement from the Metrolinx CEO.

(with files from Canadian Press)