Toronto Mayor John Tory should guard against future subway fiascos
Toronto Mayor John Tory should learn from outrageous Spadina subway delays and cost over-runs so that another such fiasco doesn’t happen again.
March 9, 2015
Toronto Mayor John Tory is “furious” over Spadina subway extension cost-overruns, and rightly so. Yet while it’s tempting to search for someone to blame his top priority should be to ensure the same debacle isn’t repeated with SmartTrack and the city’s planned Scarborough subway expansion.
At this late date there’s no obvious culprit to blame for a mess that has developed across three decades. There’s also no easy fix for a project that is by one estimate $400 million over budget and likely to be completed in 2017 instead of this fall.
Going forward, all options to deal with the gap are problematic. The planned 8.6-kilometre route could be trimmed, with construction of the full project, out to Vaughan, further delayed. But Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca insists that won’t be allowed to happen. Alternatively the city could ask an already cash-strapped province for a bailout. Or Toronto and York Region taxpayers could simply be stuck with the entire, gaping cost of the overrun. Tory has reason to be upset.
The public should have a better idea of what comes next after a meeting of the Toronto Transit Commission later this month, where the full extent of the Spadina subway failure is to be revealed. Sources cited by the Star’s Tess Kalinowski and Robert Benzie have indicated the subway’s $2.5 billion cost has now ballooned to almost $3 billion, with a likely completion date in two years. But TTC officials haven’t confirmed those estimates.
The six-stop project, running from Downsview Station to York University, and then north to Vaughan, was originally expected to cost a modest $1.5 billion.
In broad terms, Spadina’s missed deadlines and escalating costs are due to a late start, as various levels of government bickered over final arrangements; two exceptionally severe winters; a construction-related death requiring months of investigation; unexpected problems in tunneling under York University, and disputes between various contractors.
TTC chair Josh Colle has called for an independent, third-party review of all TTC capital projects. That would be a good start.
There needs to be an in-depth analysis of precisely what went wrong, followed by an enumeration of lessons learned and a list of concrete measures to avoid such pitfalls in future. Tory should make it his mission.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has already pointed out that the province prefers to handle mega-projects through public-private partnerships, which put the onus on contractors to finish on time and on budget. That’s how Metrolinx is building the Eglinton light rail line.
This has got to be a learning moment. Yet to come is a three-stop $3.5 billion subway expansion in Scarborough and Tory’s promised $8 billion SmartTrack “surface subway” network. It would be a disaster if they followed along the same shameful track as the Spadina subway extension.