York West councillor claims Spadina subway extension far too late

The councillor for the region that will one day be served by the Spadina subway extension says the whole project is 20 years too late.

On Friday, the Toronto Transit Commission confirmed that the six-stop construction of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) from Downsview Station to Vaughan is $150 million over budget and may not open until 2017. The project’s original budget was $2.5 billion and it was supposed to open in 2015. The cost overrun will be split between Toronto ($90 million) and York Region ($60 million). Coun. Anthony Perruzza represents York West (Ward 8) where the TYSSE is being built.

“I would have very much liked it to have been open sooner,” Perruzza said. “We would have done much better had we proceeded with the construction early on when it was first announced.”

TTC CEO Andy Byford told reporters at a news conference on Friday that problems started before construction even began. He said that a “complex funding arrangement” between all levels of government and the TTC led to an 18-month delay, and that arrangement was not factored into the estimated completion date. Construction started in September 2008 instead of the original plan of March 2007.

Matias de Dovitiis, co-ordinator for the Dufferin-Finch Business Improvement Area, said based on his personal observations, the construction of this subway extension is “harming” local business, in particular, those located at the intersection of Keele Street and Finch Avenue.

Karen Stintz, former city councillor and TTC chair, said the delays and cost overruns relate to the gap between the budget and the construction.

“It costs more from the time you plan the project to the time you start the project,” she said. “There is usually not an accounting for (the fact) that everything costs more by time you get started.”

At a news conference on March 6 this year, Mayor John Tory said he blamed the problem on an “entrenched culture of no accountability.”

Stintz disagreed; she pointed to the committee setup to include representation from the City of Toronto, Vaughan and the province to oversee the project. On the specifics, Stintz said when she was TTC chair, a disagreement between the city and Walsh Construction Company Canada, the contractor hired to build the TYSSE, also delayed the project.

“They (Walsh) said we are not going to work until you pay us,” Stinz said. “And we (the city) said ‘No. You continue to work and we will resolve any outstanding disputes.’ But they just stopped work. … When your contractor doesn’t perform, it is a big deal. And when they think they have you in a position, then they’re going to try to exploit you. And because these projects are so large, there are lots of opportunities for contractors to do that.”

Coun. Perruzza claimed weather has also delayed the project, particularly during the past two colder-than-usual winters.

“You can’t pull concrete (in cold weather),” he said. “You have to wait until (the ground) thaws.”

Stintz suggested the way to prevent project delays and cost overruns is to include a contingency fee of usually 20 per cent in the budget.

“It was always my view we can manage these issues if we are ahead of them,” she said. “Once we are behind them, then the public loses confidence in our ability to deliver.”

The current TTC Chair Josh Colle issued a statement on Friday calling the delay of the Spadina subway extension “unacceptable”; he said that the TTC will conduct audits on all of its projects.