$4-billion Eglinton Crosstown mega-project squeezes Ontario architects out of design process

As the largest Canadian public transit project to launch in over 50 years, the Eglinton Crosstown provides a critical opportunity for Ontario architects to participate in something monumental for Toronto. But Infrastructure Ontario’s decision to bundle the LRT stations and maintenance facility construction into one mega-contract will dramatically limit participation from Ontario architects as no local firm is big enough to undertake the estimated $1.75-billion architectural component alone. Currently, only two consortiums have expressed interest; one is Canadian-based, and a foreign multinational firm is leading the other.

“Public transit infrastructure is a significant cultural asset of a city. It connects people to businesses and the neighbourhoods they pass through. Breaking up the Eglinton Crosstown into multiple smaller projects would provide more opportunities for Ontario architects to contribute to the cultural fabric of Toronto, as well as maximize the province’s investment in the city,” says Bill Birdsell, President of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA).

The OAA supports the Construction Design Alliance of Ontario’s (CDAO) current efforts to convince Infrastructure Ontario to unbundle the Eglinton Crosstown light-rail transit project. By dividing the LRT project into smaller contracts, with individual stations up for tender, more local architecture talent would be able to participate in the design process. “Competition will not only lower costs, but it will also produce more meaningful and innovative designs for Eglinton Avenue,” says Birdsell.

Running east to west from Scarborough all the way to Etobicoke, the new Eglinton LRT route will feature a dozen new stations and several bridges, forever changing Eglinton’s street life from end to end. “Regional architects live with the people they are designing for and understand the communities they are building in. As a result, they are well positioned to ensure their designs support local industry and provide value for both private and public sectors and the end user,“ says Birdsell.

With 19 kilometres of new light rail planned to run through the major midtown artery both above and underground, Eglinton Crosstown will intersect with 54 existing bus routes, three TTC stations and GO Transit. Tunnelling is already underway. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is expected to be in service in 2020.