Company building Eglinton Crosstown sues Metrolinx over delays, but area merchants call lawsuit 'laughable'

The company that is building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line has filed a lawsuit against Metrolinx to compensate it for delays in the $5.3-billion project, but small business owners in the Eglinton West area who are suffering due to the ongoing construction say the lawsuit is too little, too late.

Crosslinx blames 'issues regarding permits, licences and approvals' for delays in $5.3B project

The Eglinton Crosstown LRT line will be a 19-kilometre, partially-underground route when it's completed in 2021. (Ed Middleton/CBC News)

The company that is building the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line has filed a lawsuit against Metrolinx to compensate it for delays in the $5.3-billion project, but small business owners in the Eglinton West area who are suffering due to the ongoing construction say the lawsuit is too little, too late.

Crosslinx Transit Solutions was supposed to complete the project in 2020, but it's now scheduled to be operational in 2021. The line will include up to 25 stations and link to 54 local bus routes, three TTC interchange subway stations and GO Transit.

​Jason McDonald, who operates a barber shop in the area, said business has been down between 60 to 75 per cent since work commenced on the LRT.

It's like I'm getting bankrupt right now. I can't pay my rent, I can't pay my credit card, I can hardly find food.- Debbie Edwards

"I find it laughable. That's laughable," was McDonald's response to the lawsuit, filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

"A lot of businesses have closed down. We are just holding on. It's a situation I would not even wish on my enemies," McDonald told CBC Toronto.

Debbie Edwards said business has been so bad at her store, Rasta Flex, she has resorted to selling mangoes on the sidewalk.

"It has damaged me a lot. I can't make no money, I'm backed in.  It's like I'm getting bankrupt right now. I can't pay my rent, I can't pay my credit card, I can hardly find food," Edwards told CBC Toronto.

Debbie Edwards says business has been so bad at her store, Rasta Flex, she has resorted to selling mangoes on the sidewalk. (CBC)

Construction work is particularly intense along Eglinton between Dufferin Street and Marlee Avenue.

The Crosslinx lawsuit mentions "issues regarding permits, licences and approvals" as well as issues regarding design approval processes, including delays and disruptions.

Crosslinx, while saying Metrolinx hasn't met its end of the bargain, would not disclose the amount of the lawsuit.

The company says it now needs more time and money to complete the project.

Metrolinx committed to achieving 2021 opening

In a statement emailed to CBC late Thursday, Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said his company is committed to achieving the September 2021 opening date for the Eglinton Crosstown.

"As with any contract, claims are considered and reviewed thoroughly and we continue to work with Crosslinx to reach an outcome that fairly addresses the challenges that they have encountered on Eglinton," Verster said.

Verster said Metrolinx has been working closely with Crosslinxs "over several months on their alleged reasons for a claim."

But as the two companies wrangle, Nick Alampi, chair of the Eglinton Business Improvement Area (BIA), is fearful the lawsuit could mean more delays.

Store owners fear their windows and doors will be boarded up soon 

He doesn't know how many businesses would survive a further delay. 

"We're shocked by it, scared, excited. And the reason why I say we're excited, maybe this might get fire behind them so that they can get to what they need to do and get the project done as quickly as possible and hold each other accountable," Alampi told CBC Toronto.

"We're scared because we are not receiving much information. Could this lead to now more information not being given to us? So that's the big scare for us."

Nick Alampi, chair of the Eglinton Business Improvement Area, is fearful the Crosslinx lawsuit could mean more delays. (CBC)

Alampi said businesses are doing everything they can to survive.

"Everybody is changing their business model. They're implementing new services or products to their business" to try to stay afloat, he said.

Road closures this weekend

Meanwhile, as the project continues, all southbound lanes on Allen Road from Lawrence Avenue West to Eglinton Avenue West will be closed from Friday at 11 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m, city officials have announced. 

A statement from the city said the closure is to accommodate work by Crosslinx to construct a utility service across the southbound off ramp just north of Eglinton Avenue. 

"This work is an integral component of the Metrolinx construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit system's Cedarvale Station," the statement said.

"Enhanced signage will inform drivers of the road closures, and signal-timing changes on parallel roads will help manage traffic in the area. Road users should expect to encounter some delays and increased traffic on nearby roads," the statement continued.

With files from Natalie Nanowski