Toronto’s light rail may never open in time for 2020 World Series

By Boyd Erman, Patrick Welsh and Jeremy A. Levine, CNN • Updated 24th November 2016

Among the best places in Toronto to watch the Blue Jays game is the sun-warmed sands of Toronto’s Woodbine Race Track. It’s sunny, open air and you won’t see a person.

That’s until 2020, when a major construction project shuts it down for 30 minutes.

Seen around the country and the world, the long-gestating Ontario Line is something of a phantom home for some of Toronto’s biggest boosters. A $1.2 billion light rail transit line that the city has wanted for years, Ontario Line is a dream come true.

It will extend from Toronto’s international airport in the west to a subway in the east, transforming thousands of buildings along its six-kilometer route to allow for a smoother downtown transit commute.

The latest three-year station opening was supposed to happen in March 2018, but the completion date of December 2020 has also been pushed back.

The province’s transit agency, Metrolinx, blames the construction cost for the delays on unexpected problems with drilling and labor costs. Because of those difficulties, Metrolinx will need to spend as much as $2.1 billion more to build the rail line, according to the transit agency.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, a consultant and transit advocate, called the extensive construction in his city’s downtown a “crushingly painful undertaking” and said “everyone at Metrolinx needs a good hard look at the role they played in this mess.”

Why will it take so long?

Another result of not building on time is that the Transit City complex will be years behind schedule. The privately run project has cost Toronto taxpayers up to $1.5 billion in overruns, according to reports in the Canadian press .

The Ontario Line, as it’s called, will connect the city’s city center, located to the west of Woodbine, with the airport in the east.

For the past 50 years, the streetcar has acted as a way to connect the city’s east-west neighbourhoods, but those lines have aging infrastructure.

In 2010, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vowed to make light rail transit a reality for Toronto, but the city’s previous government had not pursued such a project for years.

After that promise was made, many Toronto residents worried a massive construction project would move to the top of the city’s transportation priority list.

“With the government not being able to make it a priority for decades, it’s not a surprise that they’ve ended up like this. How could they have not figured this out for 50 years?” said Greg Murphy, president of Durham Companies, a construction management company that’s helping to build Toronto’s light rail transit.

Why a shorter subway line?

In the immediate future, the Ontario Line will connect to an existing subway stop in the east end of the city. But some residents of northeast Toronto, where the development of commercial and residential space is expected to be hot in the coming years, fear that the current system won’t be able to handle the projected growth.

“I think it’s the perfect time to build a light rail system. I don’t know how great it would be with a subway extension, it would be a bit overcrowded. I think it would have even more growth,” said David Miller, an architect and Toronto transit rider who has been outspoken about the delays for the Ontario Line.

The provincial transit agency Metrolinx bought the rights to build the light rail system last month, after receiving a 100% commitment from the federal government that it would pay for construction, costs and running the system for 30 years. At a cost of $10 billion, Metrolinx is aiming to start building in 2019 and complete by 2024.

After the Ontario Line is complete, Metrolinx also intends to build a rapid transit line for Fort York that will cost up to $2.8 billion . That line, which will run from the downtown core to the north end of the city, will connect the Morningside line to Queen’s Park, the seat of Ontario’s government.

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