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Route 5 - The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

Text by James Bow

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See Also

  • Metrolinx/TTC Flexity Freedom LRT Vehicles
  • Eglinton Storage and Maintenance Facility (Coming Soon)
  • Station Pages: Mount Dennis | Keelesdale | Caledonia | Fairbank | Oakwood | Cedarvale (Eglinton West) | Forest Hill | Chaplin | Avenue | Eglinton | Mount Pleasant | Leaside | Laird | Sunnybrook Park | Science Centre | Aga Khan Park | Wynford | Sloane | O’Connor | Pharmacy | Hakimi Lebovic | Golden Mile | Birchmount | Ionview | Kennedy

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When it opens to the public in September 2021, the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT will whisk passengers from a regional terminal in the Mount Dennis neighbourhood near Weston Road, across a bridge over Black Creek Drive, and then underground beneath Eglinton Avenue. After passing many stations, including interchanges with the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway at Cedarvale (formerly Eglinton West) and Eglinton stations, the line will emerge briefly near Sunnybrook Park, stopping at Leslie Street, before diving underground again to serve Don Mills Road and the Ontario Science Centre. Rising to the surface near Wynford Drive, the LRT tracks will finally run along the middle of Eglinton Avenue, serving stops roughly every 400 metres, before diving again at Kennedy Road to connect with the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway and (initially) the SCARBOROUGH RT at Kennedy station.

When it was proposed on March 16, 2007, the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT was a 33-kilometre-long line expected to cost $2.2 billion and feature a single stretch of tunnel between Keele Street and Laird Drive. Since then, the project became more ambitious. In December 2010, when newly-elected Toronto mayor Rob Ford vetoed the proposal to operate LRT lines on street, the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT became an all-underground route that was connected to a revamped SCARBOROUGH RT. The costs for this plan ballooned to nearly $8.1 billion before Toronto City Council vetoed Rob Ford’s decision in February 2012, restoring the partially at-grade alignment and putting the eastern terminus back at Kennedy station.

Since 2012, as Toronto City Council and the Ontario government argue over the development of the city’s rapid transit network, construction of the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN line has continued apace, and its opening promises to dramatically affect how people move through the City of Toronto. When it opens, it will be the largest expansion of Toronto’s rapid transit network since the YONGE SUBWAY opened on March 30, 1954. Plans already call for the line to be extended west from Weston Road to Pearson Airport, and east and north through Scarborough to the Malvern neighbourhood.

The Rise of Eglinton Avenue

Eglinton Avenue started life as the third concession road north of Queen Street, well into the hinterland surrounding the old Town of York. Initially, the street did not run further than Jane in the west, and Laird Drive in the east, as the Humber and Don river valleys presented considerable barriers. West of the Humber River, the corresponding concession road came to be known as Richview. While Eglinton Avenue continued in name through Scarborough Township, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Metropolitan Toronto, the town of Leaside and the boroughs of North York and Scarborough collaborated on building an extension to join the Scarborough section of Eglinton Avenue with the main section further west.

Development came slowly to Eglinton, but it did come. As houses and businesses spread up Yonge Street through the 19th century, the village of North Toronto anchored itself near the intersection of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue. Montgomery’s Tavern, famous for being the site where the Upper Canada Rebellion was launched in 1837, is located on Yonge Street a few blocks north of Eglinton (a post office now occupies the site). As Toronto’s suburban development expanded into York Township and the Town of Leaside, Eglinton Avenue became a commercial strip which supported the new neighbourhoods.

Attempts were made to service these areas and foster growth, early on. On March 23, 1889, a group of investors led by James David Edgar funded the launch of the Toronto Belt Line Railway Company. They had hoped to take advantage of a real estate boom in the city, making money selling housing as well as profiting from the fares from the resulting commuters. The line started at Toronto’s Union Station and followed the Grand Trunk Railway’s tracks to the Don Valley Brick Works before cutting through the Moore Park Ravine (then called “Spring Valley”), and through Mount Pleasant Cemetery. After paralleling Chaplin Crescent through Forest Hill, the line turned west and paralleled Eglinton Avenue a few blocks north before turning south at Caledonia and returning to downtown Toronto via what is today the Newmarket subdivision, serving GO Trains to and from Barrie. The line cost $462,000 to build — much more than the investors had anticipated — and opened for passengers on July 30, 1892. Around then, however, the real estate boom in Toronto collapsed, and the Belt Line never made a profit. Passenger service ended on November 17, 1894. Today, the line remains a linear park and biking/walking trail, but it remained a freight railroad for decades, and would not be the last time the city sought to improve transit service to the area.

Streetcars Come to Eglinton

On November 19, 1924, service began on the OAKWOOD streetcar, built by the TTC at the behest of the Township of York. Streetcars started from a loop at Gilbert Avenue and ran east along Eglinton and south on Oakwood to loop at St. Clair. Bus services started up along Eglinton Avenue soon thereafter, with the EGLINTON bus serving the North Toronto neighbourhood starting September 14, 1930, and additional service on the EGLINTON WEST bus operating between Yonge Street and Oakwood Avenue starting October 14, 1936.

As Toronto’s suburban growth sprawled following the end of the Second World War, Eglinton’s importance as a major thoroughfare increased. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the TTC had plans for a streetcar route that would operate from Lipton Loop near the Pape/Danforth intersection via north on Page, across the Leaside Bridge and north on Laird Drive before turning west on Eglinton and continuing to at least Gilbert Loop. Although this did not materialize, the YONGE subway opened with Eglinton station as its northern terminus on March 30, 1954, and through bus service along Eglinton West was established soon after (to Oakwood at first, and then beyond in the early 1960s). The TTC planned to convert the 32 EGLINTON WEST bus to trolley coach operation, linking the two networks based out of Lansdowne and Eglinton garages and using the trolley coach wires that were extended along Eglinton from Oakwood to Gilbert Loop after the end of OAKWOOD streetcar service on January 1, 1960. Community opposition to the trolley wires in Forest Hill scrapped these plans, but it shows how seriously the TTC took the thoroughfare. The EGLINTON WEST trolley coach could have been a major trolley bus route operating as far west as Jane Street (which was where Eglinton Avenue West ended, until the late 1960s).

Finally, Metropolitan Toronto bridged the Humber River, connecting Eglinton Avenue to Richview Road in Etobicoke. The Richview Road named disappeared, save for a small stretch of the original concession extending west from Scarlett Road, that hadn’t been taken over by Eglinton Avenue’s new alignment off the Humber River bridge. Metropolitan Toronto had planned for the concession to be the path taken by a new expressway connecting the 401/427 interchange with an extension of Highway 400 ending where Black Creek Drive meets Eglinton Avenue, but these plans were scrapped by the mid 1970s. Eglinton Avenue now stretched from the Mississauga border and beyond, all the way east across the Don Valley to Kingston Road in eastern Scarborough.

Just as the new suburban development in the 1950s increased traffic on Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue, increasing ridership on the BLOOR streetcar beyond what was on Queen Street at the time, convincing the TTC to favour Bloor over Queen for the route of its crosstown subway, similar factors increased traffic and development along Eglinton Avenue in the 1960s and the 1970s. People could now travel across Metropolitan Toronto quickly, without having to spend time travelling down to Bloor, or contending with the congestion there. This, combined with the commercial development rising around the terminus of the YONGE subway at Eglinton station, created a vibrant “uptown” around the Yonge-Eglinton intersection, where only houses had existed less than a generation before.

Rapid Transit Proposed for Eglinton

Eglinton Avenue had already seen plans for streetcar and trolley bus services in the 1940s, 50s, and early 1960s. The TTC’s plan for subway lines in 1942 proposed streetcar subways beneath Queen and Bay/Yonge streets. The Bay/Yonge streetcar subway would rise to the surface near the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and follow the Belt Line tracks all the way to Dufferin Street. This idea was dropped in the 1946 revision to the TTC’s subway plans, which called for a full-fledged subway beneath Yonge from Union Station to Eglinton, with trolley coach routes feeding the terminal via Yonge and Eglinton Streets (see the 61 NORTOWN trolley bus).

Proposals for a rapid transit line along Eglinton Avenue itself materialized in the 1960s, with some politicians in the borough of North York seeing it as a higher priority than a subway beneath Queen Street. In 1969, Metropolitan Toronto published a “concept for integrated rapid transit and commuter rail systems in Metropolitan Toronto” with a proposed Eglinton subway operating from Weston Road and Don Mills (where connections would be made with eastern end of the Queen subway), with future extensions taking the line to central Etobicoke and Kennedy station.

At around this time, however, the provincial government was looking at ways of increasing rapid transit in Toronto, while not spending so heavily in subways. Premier Bill Davis also had the goal of turning public transit construction into a high-tech industry that Ontario could lead. The GO-URBAN proposal suggested maglev technology (trains suspended and driven above a guideway by magnets) could be used to speed passengers to major destinations across the city. While the first stages of a test line around the Canadian National Exhibition started construction in 1972, plans for a GO-URBAN network called for a “Crosstown Route”, which would operate from Pearson Airport in the west, along or around Eglinton Avenue through its central part, and then along a Hydro right-of-way out of the Don Valley into the developing Malvern neighbourhood. The GO-URBAN test project failed as the German partners pulled out, but politicians continued to look at ways of providing higher-order public transit at less cost than subways.

In 1973, Metropolitan Toronto revised its long-term rapid transit plans and altered its proposal for the Eglinton Subway. Now marked as a “Intermediate Capacity Transit” route (as the SCARBOROUGH RT was called), it was revised to continue past Kennedy station and the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line to Bellamy Road, where it could connect with the Lakeshore GO line.

The use of the “Intermediate Capacity Transit” moniker suggested that Metropolitan Toronto was expecting passenger loads that were lower than what a subway could economically carry, but higher than buses or streetcars could feasibly carry. The SCARBOROUGH RT was initially planned as a network of streetcars operating on private rights-of-way providing fast service from the end of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway into Scarborough. The provincial government, however, still wanted something more high tech, like its GO-URBAN maglevs, eventually building the linear-induction technology that served the SCARBOROUGH RT since its opening in 1985.

The linear induction ICTS technology of the SCARBOROUGH RT caused that line to be opened a year behind schedule and over $100 million over budget. Teething problems with the untested technology required a further $27 million in renovations to fix. This soured Metropolitan Toronto on the concept of Intermediate Capacity Transit as a whole, even though streetcars on private rights-of-way could possibly have succeeded at far less cost. So, when the next round of rapid transit proposals materialized for Eglinton Avenue, it was with subways in mind.

Network 2011

In 1984, Metropolitan Toronto and the TTC released the Network 2011 proposal for subway development. It called for a busway beneath or paralleling Eglinton Avenue from Eglinton West station to the Mississauga border. This busway, which would open to the public after the first phase of the SHEPPARD subway and the Downtown Relief Line, would then be converted into a full-fledged subway that would serve the public in 2014. Although the provincial governments of Frank Miller, David Peterson and Bob Rae were reluctant to commit to the plan and the $2.1 billion (in 1985 dollars) price tag, the concept of subway lines beneath Sheppard and Eglinton Avenues would set the tone for rapid transit proposals over the next two decades. By 1994, the New Democratic government of Bob Rae finally launched construction that amounted to a fraction of the original Network 2011 plan. Although the Eglinton West line was being built as a subway rather than a busway, it would only extend from Eglinton West station to York Centre station near the intersection of Eglinton and Black Creek. The efforts would be for naught, though. The following year, the Progressive Conservative party was elected government under premier Mike Harris, who subsequently cancelled construction and filled in what work had been done.

Despite this setback, the desire for rapid transit along Eglinton Avenue did not go away. The urban development along much of the route was dense, and the buses serving it were frequent, and frequently crowded. Bus priority lanes were painted onto the curb lanes of Eglinton Avenue, but were only marginally effective in speeding up transit. There were also stretches where urban intensification was possible. Architecture and Urban Design critic Christopher Hume noted that Eglinton Avenue was one of the only major thoroughfares to pass through all six lower-tier municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto. Although some criticized the Eglinton West subway proposal for building what amounted to an appendage to the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway, stopping at Allan Road and not serving the denser neighbourhoods between Allen Road and Yonge, a line running across the city, could serve more people and create a more robust public transit network.

The Transit City Proposal

In March 2007, the City of Toronto, led by Mayor David Miller and TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone, proposed a program of rapid transit extensions that they called Transit City. Responding to the fact that the high cost of subway construction made subway expansion slow to a series of fits and starts, and that the high-tech linear induction model of the Scarborough RT had not lived up to its promise, they proposed a series of light rail transit lines instead. These would operate largely on the surface on Sheppard Avenue East, Finch Avenue West, Jane Street, Eglinton Avenue East/Morningside Avenue and Don Mills Road. The keystone of the network, however, would be the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT line operating from Kennedy Station to Renforth Drive, and on into Pearson Airport. While the line would be on the surface at its extremities, the higher expected ridership (as much as 5,400 passengers per direction in the peak hour), and the congestion along the more narrow portions of central Eglinton Avenue called for this line to be placed in a tunnel between Keele Street and Laird Drive. Travel times in the tunnelled sections of the line would improve from 48 minutes down to 19.

Toronto City Council backed the Transit City proposal, but it would have remained just another in a long line of transit proposals that came to nought, until the following summer, when the provincial government of Dalton McGuinty agreed to fund the city’s Transit City proposal as part of its MoveOntario 2020 initiative. The EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT entered its design and consultation phase. As this was being done, the provincial government announced $4.6 billion in funding for the line, awarded on April 1, 2009. Construction was set to begin late in 2010.

In November 2010, however, David Miller did not run for re-election as mayor. In his place, Rob Ford was elected, promising a transportation policy that favoured private automobiles over buses and streetcars. Light Rail Transit was dismissed as an “attack on the automobile”, and all-underground subways were proposed instead. On December 1, 2010, Rob Ford’s first act as mayor was to officially cancel the Transit City network, even though portions, like the SHEPPARD EAST LRT, had started construction.

Killing the Transit City network was not as simple as Ford hoped, however. By this point, the provincial government had taken over control of these transit expansion projects under the Metrolinx banner. Although the TTC would operate the new lines, Metrolinx would own them, and Metrolinx had already agreed to pay for all of the costs of much of the network, including the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT. The mayor’s office entered into negotiations with Metrolinx and, in March 31, 2011, the two sides issued a “memorandum of understanding”. In it, the City of Toronto would be responsible for paying for the full cost of cancelling the SHEPPARD EAST LRT and replacing it with an extension of the SHEPPARD SUBWAY. The FINCH WEST LRT would not be built until a later date, possibly as a subway. The funds that would have been allocated to these two LRT lines would be routed to a revised version of the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN line, which would be operated entirely underground from Mount Dennis (Weston Road) to Kennedy station, and through-routed along the alignment of a renovated SCARBOROUGH RT. Rumours suggested that Metrolinx had been prepared to offer $2 billion towards the construction of the SHEPPARD subway had Ford allowed the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT be allowed to operate on the surface of Eglinton Avenue east from Brentcliffe Road (saving billions), but the mayor’s office refused that offer.

With the memorandum of understanding reached, Metrolinx set about redesigning the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT (renamed the EGLINTON-SCARBOROUGH CROSSTOWN) to accommodate the all-underground design. Plans called for the line to have 26 stations between Jane Street and McCowan, suggesting that six proposed stations en route would be cancelled. A route map released by Metrolinx in June 2011 suggested that stops at Black Creek, Ferrand, Pharmacy, Lebovic, Ionview, and Ellesmere would be cut. Ellesmere, originally part of the SCARBOROUGH RT, would be only the second abandonment of a working subway or RT station in Toronto’s history (the first being Lower Bay).

Construction Begins

As engineering and design work began on the newly underground stretch between Brentcliffe and Kennedy, physical work continued on the already-approved tunnel section between Black Creek and Brentcliffe. Four tunnel boring machines (TBMs) were bought for a total of $54 million. As per tradition, these machines were named after a naming contest organized by Metrolinx inviting contributions from the general public. More than 500 entries were received, and Metrolinx announced the winners: Dennis and Lea for the two TBMs tunnelling in from the west, and Don and Humber for the two machines tunnelling in from the east. The official groundbreaking took place at Keelesdale Park on November 9, 2011 with Mayor Rob Ford and Premier Dalton McGuinty in attendance. Construction hoarding went up and shafts were dug — near Black Creek Drive at the west, and Brentcliffe Drive in the east. The 81 metre-long, 511,000 kilogram TBMs Dennis and Lea arrived at Keelesdale Park on February 22, 2013. They were lowered into the shaft and, in June 2013, started chewing through the ground 16-20 metres beneath the surface east from Black Creek in the Spring of 2013.

The TBMs excavated and installed concrete tunnel walls on a 5.75 metre diameter tunnel, operating at a rate of ten metres every day. At one point, the Globe and Mail reported that the TBMs were excavating around 1,000 cubic yards (765 cubic metres) of spoil per day. Dennis and Lea reached Allan Road in early December 2014 (Dennis arrived first, and paused to allow Lea to catch up so that the breakthrough into the Eglinton West station shaft could occur simultaneously). Between April 18 and 19, 2015, the TBMs were lifted out of their shaft and moved across the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway right-of-way. After being lowered into a new shaft, they were relaunched in June 2015 to build the second stretch of tunnel, running from Allen Road to Yonge Street. Humber and Don were placed in a shaft at Brentcliffe Road and launched on July 2015. While they dug west, Dennis and Lea reached Yonge Street in May 2016. Humber and Don Met them in August 2016. Tunnelling between Black Creek and Brentcliffe was largely complete by December 2016, and crews could start digging down from the surface to build the stations. Altogether, Dennis and Lea would bore 6.4 kilometres, installing 25,647 precast concrete tunnel segments, building 4,279 rings to line the twin tunnels between Black Creek and Yonge. Humber and Don bored 3.3 kilometres, installing 26,178 precast concrete tunnel segments, making up 4,363 rings.

The Council Rebellion of February 2012

While this work was being done beneath Eglinton, in Toronto City Council, dissension was brewing. More councillors grew concerned over the high cost and wastefulness of building the whole EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT underground. TTC Chair Karen Stintz noted that, as an all-underground operation, it made more sense to build the line as a subway instead, as subway tunnels could be narrower, not having to include the LRT catenary wire. Emboldened by the political controversies that were affecting Ford’s term in office, and angered by his antagonistic attitude towards council and his refusal to put the Memorandum of Understanding to a vote, on Monday, February 6, 2012, a majority of councillors signed a notice to call a special meeting of Toronto City Council. Here, Ford’s Memorandum of Understanding with the province was debated and, by a vote of 25-18 (with two councillors absent), councillors rejected Ford’s all-underground plan for Eglinton, restoring the surface running between Brentcliffe and Kennedy.

In retaliation, TTC commissioners loyal to Rob Ford voted to fire TTC General Manager Gary Webster two weeks later. This led to another showdown at City Hall where a majority of councillors sacked the TTC commissioners loyal to Ford. On March 22, the question of whether the funds saved by bringing the EGLINTON line to the surface be put towards a SHEPPARD SUBWAY extension or a SHEPPARD EAST LRT was brought before council, with council favouring LRT by a vote of 25-19.

Through all this debate, Ontario Premier Dalton MccGuinty and the Minister of Transportation Bob Chirelli stated that they were looking for a clear direction from Toronto City Council, and that they respected the council’s decision. They reminded Mayor Ford that he was supposed to bring his Memorandum of Understanding to a council vote soon after the deal had been reached. Ironically, had Ford done so earlier in his mandate, it’s likely his plan would have passed. Once council’s decision was made, the Memorandum of Understanding was essentially void. Metrolinx returned to its original plans for the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT, leaving the SCARBOROUGH RT to be converted to operate as a separate LRT line.

Further Complications

Council’s support for the original Transit City proposal did not last. Early in 2013, TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker proposed the One City rapid transit expansion plan. Rather than support the second phase of Metrolinx’s construction program, the proposal called for a number of subway extensions throughout the City of Toronto, ignoring the proposal to extend the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT west from Weston Road to Pearson Airport. Their plan also called for the SCARBOROUGH RT to be replaced by an extension of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, erroneously believing that such an extension could be built for just $500 million more than converting the line to LRT operation.

The Scarborough subway proposal significantly complicated plans for the EGLINTON LRT terminal at Kennedy station. The former Minister of Transport Glen Murray criticized the One City proposal as rocking the boat. City Council ignored his comments and approved the Scarborough subway proposal during its July 2013 meeting, and passed a property tax increase to fund it. As studies continued, Toronto City Council eventually supported a route that extended the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway east on Eglinton and north on Danforth Road and McCowan. This, at least, could be done without disrupting the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT terminal at Kennedy.

Another complication occurred during the 2014 municipal election campaign when mayoral candidate John Tory proposed a new plan for transit expansion called SmartTrack. His plan called for frequent electric trains operating along the Stouffville and Weston GO Train routes — alleviating the need, he argued, for the Downtown Relief subway line. Where the Weston GO subdivision reached Eglinton Avenue, he proposed that SmartTrak trains would turn west, heading to Pearson Airport along Eglinton Avenue, usurping the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT’s extension west of Weston Road.

John Tory would go on to win the 2014 municipal election, but logistical realities would force changes to his plans. Instead of running SmartTrack trains along Eglinton, new plans called for a transfer station to be built at Eglinton, and the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT be extended to the airport instead. When the cost of a three-station extension of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway to Scarborough Centre (replacing the SCARBOROUGH RT) proved too expensive, plans were revised to cut the intermediate stops of the extension, and use some of the funds to extend the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT east and north to the Malvern neighbourhood instead. The provincial government under Kathleen Wynne did not respond enthusiastically to these proposals and, when her government fell to the Conservatives under Doug Ford in June 2018, further uncertainties crept into the planning.

Finally, on April 10, 2019, the Ford government proposed spending over $11 billion on new subway expansion (conditional on additional support from the Toronto and federal governments). In addition to a redesigned Downtown Relief Line (now dubbed the “Ontario Line”) and support for subway extensions on Yonge north of Finch, the BLOOR-DANFORTH Scarborough extension and the SHEPPARD SUBWAY), they proposed extending the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT west from Mount Dennis to Pearson Airport. The catch was, rather than operate the line at surface, they suggested building it underground at the cost of $4.7 billion.

Work Continues, But Incidents Occur.

While all of these debates were happening, work continued on the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN line itself. Workers began excavating or building the 25 stations along the line. Station work started with a ground-breaking ceremony at the site of Keelesdale station on March 10, 2016. The old Kodak employees recreation centre near Eglinton and Black Creek was temporarily moved back 60 metres from its original location in August 2016, and the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility was built in its place. The Kodak building was moved back to its original location (on a new foundation) on November 13, 2017, and has become the future bus terminal for Mount Dennis station.

The first piece of track — a switch — was installed at the Eglinton Maintenance and Storage Facility on August 9, 2017. By December 2018, crews had installed over 10 kilometres of track for the LRT. While the storage facility was expected to open in late 2018, work delays pushed back completion to early 2019, although the facility was substantially complete and able to host thousands of curious visitors during Doors Open Toronto on May 25, 2019. In the east, the first concrete pour for the surface section of the line took place at the site of the future O’Connor stop at Eglinton Square in January 2019.

Construction didn’t occur without incident, however. On April 18, 2016, at the site of what would become Forest Hill station, the facade of the old House of Chan restaurant and the scaffolding holding it up collapsed. Seven people were injured. And, while Metrolinx maintained its late 2021 opening date, Crosslinx, the construction company tasked with building the LRT line, sued Metrolinx in July 2018, claiming that utility work prior to construction had exceeded the timelines Metrolinx had promised, meaning they couldn’t complete their work on time. The lawsuit was settled for unspecified terms in September 2018. A report by the Auditor General of Ontario later revealed that one of the terms included an additional $237 million to be paid to Crosslinx to maintain Metrolinx’s 2021 opening date. Construction also disrupted car and pedestrian traffic along the line. Merchants complained that with noise, dust, lane and sidewalk closures, business dropped as much as 35%.

Bombardier Vehicle Delays

Another issue that materialized was the delivery of the line’s LRT vehicles. Bombardier had been commissioned to build the light rail vehicles to ply the line as early as 2009, when the order was paired with the TTC’s order of customized Flexity LRVs to operate on the legacy streetcar system. When Metrolinx took over the construction and ownership of the line, plans to have the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT feature the same unique track gauge as the TTC’s streetcar and subway network were set aside for standard gauge, and the LRT order for the line was combined with the fleets needed for LRT lines on Finch Avenue West, Hurontario Street in Mississauga, in Hamilton, and in Kitchener-Waterloo. Bombardier was still given the order to build 182 vehicles based on the Flexity Freedom model. Kitchener-Waterloo was the first to take up an option on the order, placing a call for 14 LRVs in 2013, with an option to purchase 14 more in the future.

However, the delivery problems that plagued the TTC’s order of Flexity LRVs for its legacy streetcar system also affected the order for the Flexity Freedom LRT vehicles. The first Waterloo ION LRV vehicle was supposed to be delivered to the region by August 2016, but Bombardier advised the municipality that the first vehicle could not be delivered until December 2016. Pilot LRVs were supposed to be delivered to Metrolinx in the fall of 2015, and this date was revised to the spring of 2016, and the deadline passed without delivery.

In October 2016, Metrolinx showed its displeasure by expressing its intention to cancel its contract with Bombardier for failing to live up to its commitments. Bombardier responded that Metrolinx had made a number of changes to the scope and the technical specifications of the project. Bombardier applied for a court injunction to block Metrolinx’s attempt to cancel the contract. In April 2016, the Ontario Superior Court denied the injunction request. Metrolinx announced that it would buy Alstom LRVs to operate its LRTs on Finch West and Hurontario. It also had the additional leverage of maintaining a contract with Bombardier to operate and maintain most of its GO Trains, and speculation appeared that Metrolinx might not renew that contract if Bombardier didn’t deal more favourably with Metrolinx. In mid-December 2017, Metrolinx and Bombardier agreed to modify the contract, reducing the order of Bombardier Flexity LRVs from 182 to 76.

Bombardier showcased its first LRVs for the Eglinton line at a media event held at the end of October 2018. The first LRV was delivered to Metrolinx’s Eglinton Storage and Maintenance Facility on January 8, 2019. Five more LRVs were delivered the following February. These cars were numbered from 6200-6275. On May 22, 2019, Metrolinx rolled out Flexity #6201 under its own power as part of a media event. Curious members of the public got to see the other cars and walk through one during a Doors Open Toronto event on May 25, 2019.

Station Designs and Operation

(See Also the Pages on Individual EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN stations: Mount Dennis | Keelesdale | Caledonia | Fairbank | Oakwood | Cedarvale (Eglinton West) | Forest Hill | Chaplin | Avenue | Eglinton | Mount Pleasant | Leaside | Laird | Sunnybrook Park | Science Centre | Aga Khan Park | Wynford | Sloane | O’Connor | Pharmacy | Hakimi Lebovic | Golden Mile | Birchmount | Ionview | Kennedy)

The EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT starts at the surface at Mount Dennis station, before heading east, crossing over Black Creek Drive and Black Creek itself over a bridge before diving underground. The bored tunnel continues underground for 10 kilometres to just east of Brentcliffe Road where it rises to the surface in the centre of Eglinton Avenue. After a stop at Leslie (Sunnybrook Park station), the line dives underground again, this time in a cut-and-cover tunnel, to a station stop near the Ontario Science Centre at the Eglinton/Don Mills intersection before continuing east, rising to the surface in the middle of Eglinton Avenue near the Don Valley Parkway, continuing along the median of Eglinton Avenue into Scarborough until past Ionview Road. Around Kennedy Road, the line will dive underground again, into a cut-and-cover tunnel, curving slightly south of Eglinton Avenue to terminate at Kennedy station. The LRT will be at the same level as the subway trains on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway platform, but approximately 30 metres north. Passengers will have to take steps, escalators or elevators to the mezzanine level to connect.

The task of designing the stations was assigned to the architectural services company IBI Group, creating a unified look for the 18 underground stations on the line, as well as the shelters for the 10 surface stops. Metrolinx set a budget of $10 million for public art on the LRT, with $1 million of that being used for digital art to appear on screens at stations along the line. For the remainder, a design contest was held for eight art installations at Mount Dennis, Caledonia, Cedervale (Eglinton West), Eglinton, Science Centre and Kennedy stations). On January 17, 2018, Metrolinx announced the winners. Hadley + Maxwell and Sara Cwynar were assigned installations for Mount Dennis station, Janice Kerbel for Caledonia station, Douglas Coupland for Cedervale station, Rodney LaTourelle with Louise Witthöft for Eglinton station, Sarah Morris for Science Centre station, and Dagmara Genda and Joseph Kosuth for Kennedy station. The art installations are discussed in more detail on the individual station pages (coming soon). The stations were chosen because they were either interchange stations, or stations likely to see higher passenger volumes.

The EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT will feature a number of connections to other major transportation facilities. The line connects with the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway at Eglinton and Cedarvale (Eglinton West) stations, and the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway at Kennedy. It will also connect with a new stop on the Kitchener GO line and the UP Express at Mount Dennis, providing connections northwest of the City, and to Pearson Airport itself. Another connection with GO takes place at Kennedy, with its stop on the Stouffville GO line. Finally, at Caledonia station, a connection will be made with a new stop on the Barrie GO line. All three GO lines are being expanded with an eye to eventual seven-day-a-week, two-way operation.

The EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT will initially operate with two-car LRT trains, although the station platforms are long enough to allow for three-car trains. The trains will operate with automatic train control through the main underground tunnel, while drivers will control trains on the surface and remaining tunnel sections. The surface sections will be similar to the middle-of-the-road right-of-way found on Spadina and St. Clair Avenues, with priority signalling ensuring safe crossings at intersections. The Flexity LRT vehicles can reach speeds of up to 70 km/h, but with station stops, will feature an average speed of 28 km/hr. The LRT trains will have a capacity of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction when the line opens. Transit stops at the surface will operate with proof-of-payment, again as seen on Spadina and St. Clair Avenues, but the underground stations will have Presto fare gates and staff. There are also twelve turn backs built into the tracks to reverse LRT trains. Seven of these are at underground stations such as Mount Dennis and Kennedy, while five are found on the surface sections. Avenue and Laird stations will have turn back switches with an additional pocket track that can store a train out of the way of the main line.

As the line was being planned, many of the stations on the route received working names that were the same as other stations on the Toronto subway network. On November 23, 2015, the TTC Commission received a report recommending that unique names be assigned to each station within the subway system so as to reduce confusion. On the report’s recommendation the Commission voted to assign new names to nine stations on the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN line. As a result, Keele became Keelesdale, Dufferin became Fairbank, Bathurst became Forest Hill, Bayview became Leaside, Leslie became Sunnybrook Park, Don Mills became Science Centre, Victoria Park became O’Connor, and Warden became Golden Mile. Design drawings for stations like Keelesdale suggested that the Metrolinx was going to put the relevant street name beneath the station name on the walls in a smaller font, similar to the arrangement seen at Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode, and St. Andrew stations on the University line, or the words “Metropolitan Centre” found beneath the name Vaughan at the north end of the Spadina subway extension into Vaughan.

The TTC also decided to rename Eglinton West station, so as to avoid confusion with Eglinton station, and provide a better description of where passengers were on the EGLINTON CROSSTOWN line. The TTC considered an option to rename the station Allen, but eventually chose Cedarvale, with Councillor Joe Mihevc saying, “It helps promote the neighbourhood rather than an arterial road.”

Finally, all 76 LRT cars will be stored at the Eglinton Storage and Maintenance Facility beside Mount Dennis station. The 23 hectare facility offers a full vehicle cleaning and inspection facility, an automatic vehicle inspection system, crew offices, as well as maintenance bays to do major repairs. The facility has space enough for 135 vehicles, and can be expanded to handle up to 162 Flexity Freedom LRTs should service demands warrant, likely after the Eglinton West and East extensions are built. Initially, the TTC had planned that some vehicles for the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT would be stored at the Conlins Road facility on the SHEPPARD EAST LRT (accessed either via the renovated SCARBOROUGH RT, or the EGLINTON EAST LRT extension to U of T Scarborough, but this issue is unlikely to become pressing for years to come.

The Impact and Importance of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT

Throughout the decade of 2010, it has been easy for public transportation advocates to be frustrated over the slow pace of transit expansion in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks to cost-cutting provincial governments, and the anti-transit activism of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a number of transit expansion initiatives begun in the previous decade were curtailed or delayed. The SHEPPARD EAST LRT was planned to open in 2013 when funds were allocated and construction started in 2009, before Mayor Ford cancelled the project in 2010. Although officially still planned for construction, it lies dormant and seems unlikely to be revived. Provincial budget cuts delayed the construction of the FINCH WEST LRT and Ford’s cancellation delayed it further. As of June 2019, it is now starting construction, and Metrolinx hopes that it will be operational by 2023. The other lines proposed for Transit City are either cancelled or unfunded, and planned expansion of the legacy streetcar system into the Toronto Port Lands is suffocating from a lack of political will. It can feel as though nothing is getting done.

However, if the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN line opens on time in September 2021, it will be the largest single expansion of Toronto’s rapid transit network, adding 25 stations and 19 kilometres of track, over ten of which are underground. It also has room to grow, with an expected initial ridership of 5,400 passengers in its peak hour (upwards of 72,000 to 90,000 passengers on a given weekday), but launch capacity three times that, and the ability to increase operating capacity by 33%, just by adding another car to the trains. It will speed passengers across the city, without forcing them to head south to the BLOOR-DANFORTH line. Further extensions could bring rapid transit closer to residents in Etobicoke and Scarborough, and be the catalyst of urban intensification along the Eglinton Avenue corridor.

More importantly, it may change the popular perception Torontonians have of light rail transit. In the 1970s, politicians turned away from simple but effective streetcars on private rights-of-way as an inexpensive solution for bringing rapid transit to the suburbs, preferring instead to re-invent the wheel with the high-tech linear-induction SCARBOROUGH RT. The problems associated with the SCARBOROUGH RT soured local politicians on the concept of rapid transit that wasn’t a full-fledged subway. By operating underground where it has to, and rising to the surface where it can, the EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT will provide rapid transit over a great swath of the city, and do so for billions less than what it would have cost if Mayor Rob Ford had succeeded in burying the whole thing underground.

For the merchants struggling with the effects of construction, the opening of the LRT will be a profound relief, and the line could transform Eglinton Avenue into a denser, more urban corridor lined with vibrant communities. Perhaps the success of the line may finally convince more politicians of the need and the benefit of investing in more higher order transit in the Greater Toronto Area. It may even convince politicians that the Eglinton West extension could be just as effective, less expensive, and quicker to build on the surface than underground.

The EGLINTON-CROSSTOWN LRT continued to be built while politicians argued about its existence, and almost derailed it. That it will finally open is a testament to the will of the politicians who launched it and shepherded it, and to the sensibility of the proposal that was literally decades in the making.

Document Archive


Eglinton-Crosstown LRT Image Archive


References

  • Jeff, Shaun (February 10, 2017). “Bombardier taking Metrolinx to court over threats to scrap light-rail vehicle deal”. Toronto Sun.
  • Kalinowski, Tess (July 28, 2010). “Metrolinx orders tunneling machines”. Toronto Star.
  • Kalinowski, Tess; Dale, Daniel (February 9, 2012). “Special transit meeting: Mayor Rob Ford dismisses council’s vote against his subway plan”. Toronto Star. Toronto.
  • Kalinowski, Tess (November 24, 2015). “Eglinton West station to become ‘Cedarvale’ because of Crosstown LRT”. Toronto Star.
  • “Launch of tunnel boring machines and tunnelling work in the east”. Metrolinx. October 1, 2015.
  • “Machines begin tunnelling for Eglinton Crosstown LRT”. CBC News. June 5, 2013.
  • Munro, Steve (July 5, 2009). “Eglinton LRT Design (Part 2: Keele to Warden)”, stevemunro.ca
  • Munro, Steve (June 26, 2011). “A Few Questions About Eglinton Crosstown”, stevemunro.ca
  • Pelley, Lauren (April 19, 2015). “Eglinton businesses feeling sting of Crosstown construction”. Toronto Star.
  • Revised Bombardier Vehicle Delivery Schedule. Region of Waterloo.
  • Spurr, Ben (November 3, 2016). “Metrolinx says it intends to cancel Bombardier LRV contract”. Toronto Star.
  • Spurr, Ben (May 12, 2017). “Province had no choice but to seek Bombardier substitute for Eglinton LRT: Del Duca”. Toronto Star.