Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
- A political U-turn on subway vs. at-grade in Toronto, Canada, is resulting in 17km of planned tunneling being scrapped and replaced with above-ground transit lines.
Fig 1. Half of Eglinton-Crosstown now at grade
- The decision by the City Council disrupts the tendering process for the 19km Eglinton-Crosstown line – which bar a short stretch between Jane and Black Creek in the west was to have been tunneled along its entire length to Kennedy in the east.
- The 9km of alignment between Laird and Kennedy on the Eglinton line will now be at grade (Fig 1) – and to make matters worse the hoped-for 8km Sheppard Subway to the north, announced by incoming Mayor Rob Ford in December 2010 as a direct replacement for a 13km street-level LRT, is to be scrapped and revert back to the original at-grade LRT alignment (Fig 2). Only 1.5km of that alignment, where the LRT connects with the existing Shepherd Subway at Don Mills Station, will now be tunneled.
Fig 2. Sheppard subway plan shelved in favor of LRT
- The changes - decided upon by Toronto City Council and endorsed by the board of project owner Metrolinx (an agency of the Province of Ontario, which is providing CAN$8.4 billion worth of funding) last week (April 26) – represent a complete U-turn back to the position prior to Mayor Ford announcing, on winning office, plans to run all lines underground.
- Work has already started on the launch shaft for the Eglinton line, and only last week a tender for the first 6.75km of tunneling between Black Creek and Yonge Street was released. Tenders for two further sections of tunneling were due for release later this year but Metrolinx confirmed to TunnelTalk that tunneling along the 19km corridor will now only be tendered in two sections, and that the section from Yonge Street to Laird is now in the design phase of a Design-Bid-Build process.
City Council expert panel axes Sheppard Subway
How the expert panel scored Sheppard options
- An expert panel of the City Council scored each of three options for the Sheppard extension; fully LRT, fully subway, and a mix of both; against nine separate criteria (see above). The panel's mandate was to "advise the Council on the most effective means of delivering rapid transit to the greatest number of riders with the funds currently allocated and with projected funds, and will report on other potential funding sources that could augment funds for public transportation on Sheppard."
- Back in July 2010 Metrolinx ordered four Caterpillar TBMs to excavate the 5.75m i.d. Eglinton tunnels. According to Malon Edwards of Metrolinx, delivery of the first two TBMs (which will excavate the Black Creek to Yonge Street section) is expected in "late summer 2012", with the remaining two (which will excavate the Yonge Street to Laird section) expected to be delivered "later in 2013."
- According Anna Pace, Strategic Partnerships Director at the Toronto Transport Commission, this order was only ever intended to cover excavations as far west as Laird. She said: "The order of four TBMs was based on the original [pre-December 2010] plan of 10km underground. The design and project implementation plan for the east end tunnel [Laird-Kennedy], which has now been suspended, would have indicated if more TBMs would be required."
- She added: "We expect to restart the design of the east end at-grade section [Laird-Kennedy] in the next few months. The design of the Yonge-Laird section is being completed and is expected to be tendered by the end of the year. The west end of the tunnel [Black Creek-Yonge] is out for tender."
- Metrolinx already owns the four Caterpillar EPBMs that are currently excavating the 8.6km Spadina subway extension (also in Toronto); two working the northern section, and two the southern section. The two EPBMs working the 2.6km southern tunnels should complete their second and final drives in 2013.
- These machines, however, are not suitable for transfer to the Eglinton tunnels. Edwards told TunnelTalk: "The TBMs on Spadina are smaller in diameter than the TBMs for Eglinton and, because of that, we will not be repurposing them for the tunnel work on Eglinton."
- Part of the reason for the changes is financial. Metrolinx has a strict transit budget from the Province of Ontario of CAN$8.4 billion: changing the Sheppard Subway plan back to the original street-level LRT alignment will reduce the cost of that element of a four-pronged transit plan for new lines and extensions (Eglinton, Sheppard, Finch West, Scarborough) from CAN$3.5 billion to CAN$1 billion.
- The cost of running the Eglinton-Crosstown line wholly in tunnels was estimated in 2010 at CAN$4.9 billion. By cutting back on tunneling the City Council has committed to deliver the conversion of the 9.9km Scarborough RT to LRT and the Finch West LRT from the Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) to Humber College.
- Pace said: "The transit plan for Toronto has a funding commitment of CAN$8.4 billion from the Province of Ontario. The plan involving the Eglinton-Crosstown underground for the entire length, and the Scarborough RT conversion and extension, totalling 25km, required the entire funding commitment. The plan recently re-approved includes the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT (with only the central section underground), the Scarborough RT conversion and extension, the Sheppard East LRT and Finch West, totaling 52km, to be built with the CAN$8.4 billion funding commitment."
The Metrolinx letter that prompted City Council U-turn
Fig 3. New alignments reinstate the 2010 "Transit City" position – with the loss of 16km of tunneling
- Metrolinx forced matters to a head in January when its chairman Robert Pritchard expressed concern that a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreed with Toronto City Council, and which confirmed tunneling the Eglinton line east of Laird to Kennedy, had still not been endorsed.
- He claimed that the time had been reached when a decision had to be made if work on the Eglinton line could continue – and made it clear that neither Metrolinx nor the Province of Ontario (which is providing the funding) would be held financially responsible for any project delays or cancellations brought about by changes to the original 2010 Transit Plan resulting from changes made by the City Council in its MoU. This is his letter:
- Your Worship Mayor Ford and Chair Stintz,
- I write with respect to the Metrolinx transit projects in Toronto. My purpose in writing is to be clear on our approach to the transit projects and to give you guidance as you and your colleagues on City Council and the Toronto Transit Commission debate these issues.
- At the outset however I would like to restate the principles that guided our negotiations a year ago and led to the Memorandum of Understanding, as these continue to reflect the provincial interest and therefore the mandate given to Metrolinx.
• Sound Regional Transit Planning: Any projects to be paid for by the Province must achieve sound transportation objectives for the City and the region, and reflect the goals and principles of our regional transportation plan, The Big Move.
• Budget and cost: The maximum budget for the provincial contribution to the plan remains fixed at the original $8.4 billion (2010 dollars). Any plan must be cost effective and involve no cost increases to the Province over the original budget. Any additional costs must be paid by the City or other partners.
• Penalties: The Province is not prepared to pay any penalties related to contractural commitments or the loss of investments that result from any changes sought by the City. These costs must be borne by the City just as the penalty costs and losses incurred by virtue of the MoU remain the City’s responsibility.
• Cost of Delays: Delays in the delivery of results to residents are not acceptable. In the event that further delays occur in the delivery of projects, any delay costs must be assumed by the City.
- Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission, with TTC acting as the agent for Metrolinx, are making good progress with various elements of the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT line including: acquiring TBMs, buying land on Eglinton for the vehicle maintenance and storage facility, preparing to initiate tunneling on the central part of the line, acquiring and refining the LRT vehicles and doing detailed planning. The progress and current work – located along the westernmost portion of the Crosstown line - is consistent with both the previous “transit city” (pre 2010) plan as well as the "MoU" (post 2011) line.
- We will soon have to choose between these competing proposals - namely at or below grade east of Laird Drive to Kennedy Road. In order to continue with this important project we require the support of, and clarity from, the City of Toronto. As such, we are concerned that the MoU has not yet been confirmed by Toronto City Council. Our concern has been sharply elevated in recent days by widely reported public statements from TTC Chair Karen Stintz and other members of Council suggesting Council will reject the terms of the MoU and seek a different transit plan with Metrolinx.
- Absent Council's endorsement of the MoU, the City is not bound by the plan and it is increasingly difficult for Metrolinx to implement it. We believe that both you and Council must soon confirm the direction the City wishes to take.
J. Robert S. Pritchard
New LRT plan would cut Eglinton tunneling - TunnelTalk, January 2011
Tender schedule for the 17.5km Crosstown LRT for the Toronto Metro, Canada - TunnelTalk, November 2011
Spadina Line extension commences in Toronto - TunnelTalk, May 2011
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