By Ryan Chatterjee
The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension is the latest infrastructure project in the city to be North America, now have to wait longer than expected to see an improvement in transit.
The TTC has confirmed that the six stop construction project of the TYSSE from Downsview Station to Vaughan is $150 million over budget, and may not open until 2017. The project’s original budget was $2.5 billion and was supposed to open in 2015. The cost overrun will be divided between Toronto ($90 million) and York Region ($60 million).
Councillor Anthony Perruzza represents the ward where the TYSSE is being built. Perruzza feels disappointed and thinks the subway extension should have happened decades ago.
“I would have very much liked it to have been open sooner. We’re probably 20 years too late,” Perruzza said. “We would have done much better had we proceeded with the construction early on when it was first announced.”
TTC CEO Andy Byford told reporters at a news conference that problems started before construction even began. Byford said a “complex funding arrangement” between all levels of government and the TTC led to an 18 month delay which was not factored into the estimated completion date. Construction started in September 2008 instead of the original plan of March 2007.
Matias de Dovitiis, coordinator for the Dufferin-Finch Business Improvement Area, said based on his personal observations, the construction of this subway extension is “harming” local business, in particular, at the intersection of Keele St. and Finch Ave. As for how much profit businesses are losing, that remains unknown. No business responded to an interview request.
Mayor John Tory said he was “furious” and blamed it on an “entrenched culture of no accountability” at a news conference on March 6. Karen Stintz disagrees, saying there is a committee setup between the City of Toronto, Vaughan and the province to oversee the project. On the specifics, Stintz mentioned when she was TTC chair, Walsh Construction Company Canada, the contractor the city hired to build the TYSSE, had a dispute with the city which is the main cause of the project to be delayed.
“They [Walsh] said ‘we are not going to work until you pay us.’ And we [the city] said ‘no, you continue to work and we will resolve any outstanding disputes’ but they just stopped work,” Stintz said. “When your contractor doesn’t perform, it is a big deal and when they think they have you in a position then they’re going to try to exploit you and because these projects are so large, there are lots of opportunities for contractors to do that.”
Another unforeseen issue that occurred was in 2011when a death of a construction worker at the York University station site stopped construction for four months due to a Ministry of Labour investigation.
Councillor Perruzza claimed weather was also a factor in this project being delayed. The last two winters being colder and longer than normal has made it challenging.
“You can’t pull concrete. For example, the ground freezes and it freezes very deep because there are issues,” Perruzza said. “You have to wait until it thaws.”
As for how to prevent this from happening in the future, Stintz thinks it is difficult to do so because you can’t predict the future, so that is why there is a contingency fee usually of 20 per cent. It is when the contingency goes 50 per cent over budget that there is a problem according to Stintz.
The current TTC Chair Josh Colle issued a statement calling the delay of the Spadina subway extension “unacceptable” and that the TTC will conduct audits on all of its projects.
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