Mississauga Council Approves More Money for Torbram Construction Project

When you hear about a big road construction project in Mississauga and a specific timeline of completion and cost is given out, one would assume that, as experts in their field, operators fully costed out their project and know what they are doing.

But some people are often skeptical that the project will be completed on time and on budget.

As residents of the sixth largest city in Canada experiencing one of the most massive construction booms in decades, we should be vigilant and take into account that what comes with these types of projects should be some healthy skepticism as to how much they end up actually costing and the actual timeline of completion.

Since it was announced around late 2014, there has been an ongoing construction project on Torbram Road, just south of Steeles Avenue at the intersection with the rail line (see above map). The purpose was to construct an underpass through a grade separation in order to allow smoother traffic flow over that intersection, as there are frequent stops due to train traffic, increasing congestion. This bridge will be similar to the overpass on Mavis Road, north of Dundas Street, with vehicles diverted underneath the rail line.

This project is going to reduce congestion in and out of Malton,” says Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish. “It’s been a long time coming, and I know residents will be thrilled when they’re able to travel with fewer holdups.” The grade separation is a joint project between the City of Mississauga and the City of Brampton, and it was scheduled to be completed this May.

However, at the April 19 General Committee meeting, city staff overseeing the project came before councillors identifying several challenges, which include:

  • The relocation of a Bell utility chamber that was not previously identified in the original project scope. “Sometimes when you open up the ground, you find things that were previously not known to be there,” Andy Harvey, the city’s director of engineering and construction, explained.

  • Metrolinx also imposed stringent requirements on the project, including the installation of shoring and piles within the railway corridor in addition to other design changes.

  • There was increased train traffic, which went from 4 trains to 30 trains per day (crews had to pause while trains were going through), and which Councillor Parrish sort of blamed Metrolinx for as well.

  • Construction had been halted during the winter by 4 months.

As a result, the project’s initial timeline has been extended from May 2017 to December 2018. In addition because of the delays and additional necessities, the city staff came forward to request additional funding by around $10.8 million, $6.8 million of which the City of Mississauga would be funded through development charges.

From a financial standpoint, it would make little sense to refuse the money as there is already a pit in the ground from the construction. It’s like all the work they have already done for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and suddenly deciding to cancel the project and rebury the tunnel. Another thing to point out is at least it is from development charges and not from property taxes, as one councillor pointed out. Another councillor was surprised that Bell didn’t know that the utility chamber was in that location, but apparently it was 30 years old and schematics were lost over time. It just goes to show you that a major telecommunications utility really should keep their records more up to date.

But there is another point of contention that has been raised by some media as well. The original tender for the Torbram grade separation was $67 million. With the increased funding request the project has apparently ballooned to over $100 million. Insauga reached out to Mississauga City Manager Janice Baker for a response, and she provided this response via email:

When the project was tendered and awarded in 2014, the total project cost was $89.4 million, including a contractor tender cost of $67 million and consulting fees of $4.5 million. The remaining $17.9 million costs were for land, early utility relocation works, and work completed for the rail companies.

Project challenges, including utility conflicts and stringent requirements imposed by a rail authority, resulted in project prolongation and increased costs of $10.8 million, of which $4.0 million is recoverable from Brampton, Metrolinx, CN Rail and Metrolinx. The total project cost is now $100.2 million.”

I am not an expert in how these projects are costed, but it goes to show you that the costing for these types of projects are much more complicated than initially advertised. That being said, an overpass at the intersection of Torbram and Steeles has been long overdue. Like the Goreway Bridge proposal, this was seen as a solution to alleviate the congestion built up in that area where heavy truck traffic and average commuters were stuck having to wait for a train to pass through before they could be on their way.

Sometimes those trains were up to over 30 or more cars before completely crossing the tracks where they intersect with the roads. That kind of wait is rather ridiculous; if they can make a change and allow freight train traffic to run over vehicular traffic simultaneously, that would go a long way to alleviating congestion and getting people home in time to see their families and go about their business.

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