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TTC’s Spadina extension to open in 2019 at current pace, staff say

The site of the new TTC station of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension in Vaughan near the intersection of Hwy 407 and Jane Street.

PETER POWER/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Spadina subway extension will open three years late and $185-million over budget unless the TTC changes course, Toronto's transit agency warned as it laid out proposals for getting the troubled project back on track.

In a hotly anticipated report, the Toronto Transit Commission presented Friday four options for the $2.6-billion project, none of which alters the route.

The cheapest and fastest option involves issuing a sole-source contract to an undetermined private firm to take over management of the project and spending an extra $150-million to speed up work. This option, which would open late in 2017, is the one TTC staff will be urging their board to adopt at a meeting next week.

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The line was originally expected to open in 2015. Under a revised timeline approved by the TTC board two years ago, it was to open in 2016.

"I expect to be held accountable," TTC head Andy Byford told a media briefing when questioned about the agency hitting a new deadline. When asked to be more specific he simply repeated the line.

The most expensive option presented Friday by the TTC involves continuing the current, agency-run approach. This is would cost the extra $185-million and is also the slowest option, not expected to finish until 2019.

None of these potential costs includes the price for continuing and potential claims against the TTC by contractors, a total Mr. Byford would not estimate.

Under a cost-sharing agreement with York Region, where the subway line would terminate, Toronto is on the hook for 60 per cent of any overruns. The TTC believes that some of the city's portion could be covered by finding savings within this year's TTC operational budget. The rest would come by selling unidentified TTC property and deferring unspecified projects.

The extension of the Spadina subway to Vaughan has been plagued by delays, mission creep and cost inflation. The report comes in the wake of mounting questions about the project – and it sparked new ones.

"It seems that some of the traditional reporting mechanisms used at the TTC were not in place and it reminds us why there is a commission that receives public updates, so that we can actually have this information," former TTC chair Adam Giambrone said Friday.

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Transit advocate and blogger Steve Munro questioned why the project's problems weren't recognized and publicized much earlier.

"Some of the cost issues should have been foreseen and, basically, a flag sent up saying, 'Hey, you know, there's a problem developing because this thing is getting far more expensive,'" he said.

As recently as December the project was described as being on-budget in the CEO's report submitted by Mr. Byford to the board.

"Technically, the project was on budget for the 2016 date, until we could determine what the actual finish date would be," he told reporters Friday.

"It was an agreed position with … the funding partners that until we're done with the analysis we should not go, we should not go public with a revised open date or budget. And that was an agreed position, so I could not say anything different."

Mr. Byford said Friday that the project had faced problems from the beginning. He became personally involved in 2013 as it became clear that the problems were getting worse, he explained, and ultimately commissioned external analysis that helped lead to the recommendations being released, he said.

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TTC chair Josh Colle, who was travelling Friday, expressed his frustration in a statement.

"As I've said before, it is unacceptable that the Spadina subway extension is delayed and over budget," said Mr. Colle, who called earlier this month for an independent, third-party review of all TTC capital projects.

"The status quo cannot continue with respect to this project, or any of the TTC's major capital infrastructure projects."

With reports from Ann Hui

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About the Author

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

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