Ontario Construction News staff writer
Toronto’s general government committee voted Friday to take over construction of new streetcar tracks on Adelaide Street after Metrolinx failed to build infrastructure needed to run a diverted Queen streetcar.
Criticism focused on Metrolinx and work on the Eglinton Crosstown and the new Ontario Line.
Councillor Gord Perks said Metrolinx agreed to build a diversion for the Queen streetcar on Adelaide St. during construction, but “panicked” and instead suggested running buses as a replacement for the Queen streetcar. That’s when the city stepped in, finding a way to piggyback construction of streetcar tracks onto an existing sewer work project along Adelaide.
“This is just demonstrating to us how utterly devastating the mistake was when we handed transit planning and construction up to the province of Ontario through their unelected, unaccountable and untransparent Metrolinx organization,” Perks said at the meeting. “We made an agreement with them that they would provide a streetcar diversion while the work on Queen Street was taking place.
“Sure, sitting down with a box of pencil crayons and drawing some lines on the city of Toronto and saying ‘We’ll put the transit here.’ was easy and fun, or hiring a couple of Mighty Machines to knock down a heritage building and cut down some trees was easy to do, but actually providing transit in a dense urban core with a lot of infrastructure already in place is obviously beyond what Metrolinx is capable of doing.”
Councillor Josh Matlow questioned why the city is not represented at Metrolinx, despite the significant impact transit construction has on residents and businesses.
“I wouldn’t even consider the city a junior partner when it comes to transit expansion any longer,” he said. “They bulldoze through and everybody has to deal with that.”
Perks wants city council to revisit the “terrible” agreement that Mayor John Tory signed with the Province of Ontario “to allow them to come stomp on the city to get their version of transit done in exchange for a little bit of money.
“The lesson learned here is that Metrolinx can’t do urban transit and that the City of Toronto and the TTC can.”
Metrolinx is planning to close Queen Street and divert all vehicles — including streetcars —between Bay St. and Victoria St. for four-and-a-half years during construction of the Ontario Line.
Perks said the city is facing “a key moment” in transit planning and construction.
“It’s demonstrating to us how utterly devasating the mistake was when we handed transit planning and construction up to the Province of Ontario through their unelected, unaccountable and untransparent Metrolinx organization,” he said. “We made an agreement with them that they would provide a streetcar diversion while the work on Queen Street was taking place. They looked at it and they discovered that it was actually hard to build and construct streetcar tracks inside an urban area and the panicked and said let’s run buses instead.”
He credited the TTC and City of Toronto transportation staff for finding an alternative … the kind of “depth, flexible and responsive work that you want out of a transit planning and construction agency.
“The very thing that Metrolinx has proven it can’t be.