Cost of digging a tunnel for the Eglinton crosstown could pose a problem for Rob Ford’s transit plan

Cost of digging a tunnel for the Eglinton crosstown could pose a problem for Rob Ford’s transit plan

The Eglinton LRT tunnel is turning into a real noodle-scratcher (Image: Christopher Drost) 

From annals of things that shouldn’t be surprising but somehow are at city hall: digging a tunnel for the Eglinton LRT—one that passes under the Don River—might be complicated and expensive (also, the dirt dug up needs to be disposed of properly, not just dumped inside an unused library or something). The Globe and Mail reports that the cost of the Eglinton crosstown LRT has jumped from $4.6 billion to $8.2 billion due to Mayor Rob Ford’s insistence that the line be built entirely underground.

The Globe has the story:

Under the Transit City strategy, the LRT was to emerge from a tunnel east of Laird and continue eastward on a right-of-way in the middle of Eglinton. But because of Mr. Ford’s changes, Metrolinx officials have spent months grappling with the question of how to get the Crosstown line across the Don Valley.

A tunnel may prove to be too deep and too steep for light rail vehicles, so Bruce McCuaig, president and CEO of Metrolinx, said the agency is looking at building a grade-separated bridge for the LRT as it crosses the ravines. Public consultations on an environmental assessment examining a bridge and other tunnel configurations will begin in early 2012.

Naturally, councillors are already questioning both alternatives (Transit City supporter Gord Perks even asked, “Why don’t they just go back to the original idea? They can’t get it under the Don.”) So, it appears that Ford has once again placed political ammo squarely in his opponents’ laps—and that’s without even considering the implications for the mayor’s beloved Sheppard subway.

Of course, what’s more interesting is that it appears Ford never seriously considered the possibility that tunnelling underground might be prohibitively expensive. Also, the Globe says disposing of soil is complicated and subject to regulations—and we all know how Ford feels about regulations, which might in part explain how Ford found himself in this mess in the first place. He was unwilling to compromise, insisting that his way was the only way. That his way could prove to be disastrous will certainly not be lost on his opponents, who could seize on this opportunity to block Ford’s revised plan in council next year.

Tunnel plan for Eglinton Crosstown LRT could stymie Ford [Globe and Mail]