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Toronto LRT is Canada's costliest infrastructure project: magazine

Station design is one of the most exciting -- and most critical -- components of The Crosstown construction. Major considerations for station design, include accessibility for people with disabilities, development potential, integration with surrounding communities, and reducing construction impacts.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's decision to move the Eglinton Crosstown light rail line underground has turned it into the most expensive infrastructure project in the country.

The Eglinton line leads the pack in a new ranking of Canada's 100 biggest infrastructure projects for 2012, researched and compiled by ReNew Canada, an infrastructure magazine.

The magazine ranks projects based on total cost, including materials and labour. The list includes projects that are in the assessment, procurement or construction phase, but omits oil and gas pipelines on the grounds that they are not public works.

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At $8.2-billion, the 25-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit (LRT) Project is the biggest, rising from fourth place a year earlier.

Toronto's previous mayor, David Miller, had approved a light rail plan called "Transit City" that included light rail on Eglinton Ave., Sheppard Ave., Finch Ave. and Jane St.

Mr. Ford cancelled the Transit City plan in December 2010 during his first day in office, declaring that "the war on the car stops today... We will not build any more rail tracks down the middle of our streets."

Instead, Mr. Ford and the Ontario government decided to limit the number of projects and put more money into the Eglinton line so that it could go underground.

Mr. Miller has said his successor's tunnel plan is unnecessary and "extremely unwise."

"The decision to bury the project and make it an underground – as opposed to an above-ground – LRT basically created that cost hike," said Mira Shenker, editor of ReNew Canada, who has inspected the work site and expects the cost of the project to rise. "It's estimated in the $8-billions, but we don't really know."

Tunnels are a common theme among Canada's biggest projects. Holey and Moley - the nicknames for two Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) - are already digging away on the Spadina Subway extension project (number eight on the list). Two more TBMs - Yorkie and Torkie - will be added to bore the northern section of the tunnel.

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The Spadina extension uses TBMs made by Canada's Caterpillar - one of only three companies in the world that manufacture TBMs. Caterpillar machines are also involved in the Eglinton line and a sewer project in the York region of the Greater Toronto Area.

Meanwhile "Big Becky," the largest hard rock TBM in the world, recently completed a major dig under the city of Niagara Falls that will bring more water into the area's existing hydro dams.

The tunnel is 14.4 metres wide and as high as a four-storey building. The $1.6-billion Niagara Tunnel Project ranks 17th on the list.

The top 100 list is peppered with several renewable energy projects, including hydro dams and wind energy developments.

The top 100 projects carry a total value of $114-billion, which is an 18-per-cent increase over the magazine's 2011 list.

Broken down by type, energy represented the largest source of spending at $47.2-billion, followed by $25.4-billion for transit, $15.3-billion for health care, $12.7-billion for transportation, $4.4-billion for public buildings, $3.7-billion for water/wastewater projects and $1.8-billion for airport improvements.

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The top 10

1. Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit Location: Toronto, ON


2. Site C Clean Energy Project hydro dam Location: Northeastern British Columbia


3. Romaine Complex A Renewable Energy hydroelectric project Location: Havre-Saint-Pierre, Quebec


4. Lower Churchill Hydro Project Location: Central Labrador


5. Eastmain-1-A/Sarcelle/Rupert hydro project Location: James Bay Territory, Quebec


6. Bipole III Transmission Line Location: Gillam to Winnipeg, staying west of Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba


7. Turcot Interchange (replacing an ageing expressway interchange, as well as stretches of highways 15, 20 and 720. Location: Montreal, Quebec


8. Spadina Subway Extension Location: Toronto, Ontario


9. Lower Mattagami Hydroelectric Complex Location: 70 km northeast of Kapuskasing, ON


10. CHUM (Centre hospitalier de l’université de Montréal) Redevelopment - a new hospital research centre Location: Montreal, Quebec


Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated there was a possibility that as many as four more TBMs will need to be added to the Spadina Subway extension project. In fact, the magazine had said this possibility applied to the Eglinton LRT project.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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