Ontario Construction News staff writer
Crosslinx Transit Solutions (CTS), a consortium building the Eglinton Crosstown transit project, is using the COVID-19 pandemic to excuse its years of poor performance, says the Metrolinx CEO and president.
“Metrolinx has a singular focus and objective, which is to complete the Eglinton Crosstown at the soonest possible date, Phil Verster said in a statement.
CTS filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, arguing that provincial transit agency Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario weren’t addressing the pandemic-related problems with the Eglinton Crosstown project.
“We’ve reluctantly moved to legal action because we feel we’ve exhausted trying to talk to Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario about COVID issues,” said Kristin Jenkins, a spokeswoman for CTS, adding that COVID-19 has “created unexpected issues like absenteeism, supply-chain problems, and subcontractors exceeding their budgets as they try to keep their workers safe during the pandemic.”
Verster responded, saying that instead of legal action, CTS should “focus on getting the Eglinton project completed.”
“We have been actively supporting Crosslinx Transit Solutions to deliver on their promises and their schedule, however, CTS has consistently failed, month after month, for two years, to achieve their production rates.
On Feb. 18, Metrolinx 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, Verster said, adding that since the announcement, 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 per cent of their planned volume of work,” Verster said.
Litigation, while not surprising, is not what is required now, Verster said, however, 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, he said.
“Metrolinx is doing its part and are meeting its commitments, while also working hard with CTS to assist their recovery actions. Three years ago, we took strong actions and improved Bombardier’s production and vehicle delivery is now on schedule. It’s time for CTS to bring the same level of commitment to getting their job done,” he said.
Jenkins said CTS is asking the court to review its project agreement with Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario.
She added that the consortium hopes a judge will agree that the pandemic meets the contract’s standard of being an emergency, providing a process to have COVID-related impacts addressed.
Crosslinx said its analysis during the first wave of the pandemic estimated that COVID-19 will add at least $134 million to project costs in 2020. As a second wave begins in the province, CTS said it expects those costs to rise.
Projects including the Eglinton Crosstown were deemed essential workplaces by the province during the pandemic, so work could continue. The City of Toronto freed up space for CTS to work in critical areas, taking advantage of reduced traffic volumes, Verster stated.
“We’re disappointed this project is late. Metrolinx is focused on ensuring CTS fully meets its obligations to deliver the Crosstown as soon as possible – a vital new transit line that is complete, fully tested and ready to provide high quality, safe and reliable service to our customers,” he said.
“It’s imperative that CTS now focuses on getting this project completed, to the highest quality standard. Metrolinx will continue to hold CTS accountable for these delays.”