Most Canadians have probably seen Alexander J. Ross's famous photograph of the Canadian Pacific Railway's chief financial backer, Donald Smith, pounding the last spike of the railroad at Craigellachie, British Columbia in 1885.

Today, provincial and municipal officials took part in a "first spike" ceremony, marking the start of the track-laying process for a cross-town--not cross-continental--railway, the Eglinton light rail transit line.

Donald Smith drives the last spike for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885. Image By Ross, Alexander, Best & Co., Winnipeg and Library and Archives Canada.

At a Metrolinx construction site near Eglinton Avenue West and Weston Road, Ontario Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca and Toronto Mayor John Tory were joined by area member of the provincial parliament Laura Albanese, Toronto Transit Commission Chair Josh Colle and local city councillors Frances Nunziata and Frank Di Giorgio. During the event, the politicians posed for photos beside a small section of a "turnout track". These tracks will eventually help transit operators move LRT train-sets through a maintenance and storage facility that contractors are now building beside the future Mount Dennis Station--the western terminal for the line.

Nunziata, Del Duca, Albanese, Tory, Colle, Metrolinx staffer Judy Pfeiffer and Di Giorgio at "The First Spike", image, Robert Mackenzie.

"The Crosstown LRT will be a faster, cleaner and greener option for traveling across the City than the buses and cars that people use now," Minister Del Duca said.

Albanese, Tory, Di Giorgio, Del Duca and Colle standing on the first tracks, image, Robert Mackenzie

Mayor John Tory noted that, since this project is underground for a large part of its route, residents forget how much work is going on. "It’s often difficult for the public to see what’s going on," he said. "They know there’s construction because there has been some disruption of traffic above the ground, and they see reports from time to time when we have a chance to take the members of the media underground to see the tunnels and so on, but they don’t really have a feel for how progress is being made,” Tory said.

TTC chair, Josh Colle, listens to Mayor Tory during the event, image, Robert Mackenzie

The Mayor also talked about recently being caught in traffic due to Crosstown construction in another part of the city. He noted that while he was stuck on Mount Pleasant Road, where a large senior's residence sits that its residents were the ideal beneficiaries of the project. "Now they can just cross the street to the LRT station and then connect with the subway to go downtown, instead of having to walk as far as Yonge," he said.

Di Giorgion, Nunziata, Colle and Tory listen to Minister Del Duca as Albanese and Pfeiffer look on, image, @StevenDelDuca

Crosslinx Transit Solutions, the consortium that is building and financing the project, intends to finish working on the maintenance and storage facility in 2018. That makes the facility the first part of the project that the group will complete. It includes more than eight kilometres (five miles) of tracks and space to store 162 Bombardier Flexity Freedom cars, assuming those are the cars that service the line. (Metrolinx has a back-up plan to use Alstom Citadis cars, if Bombardier fails to deliver its order on time.) The entire line stretches 19 kilometres (11 miles) eastward from Mount Dennis under or on Eglinton Avenue to Kennedy, with 23 stops in between. Metrolinx expects to open the line to passengers in 2021.

The Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit line includes 25 station and stretches 19 kilometres, image, Metrolinx

Mount Dennis has often been the site for events marking significant milestones on the project. Metrolinx launched two of the tunnel-boring machines for the project nearby, on Eglinton Avenue West at Black Creek Drive in 2011. Almost exactly a year ago, in August 2016, it invited media and the nearby community to watch as the historic Kodak Employees Recreation Centre was moved  61 metres (200 feet) off its foundation so that underground construction on the site could proceed. Eventually, Metrolinx will roll the building back to its original site where it will use it, in part, as a bus terminal.

Then, this March, Minister Del Duca and MPP Albanese announced that, after long discussion with the nearby community, Metrolinx would build a battery-powered generating station on the site to supply energy to the line, in the event of a power outage. (Previously, Metrolinx proposed a gas-powered plant for this function.)

Metrolinx laying tracks for Eglinton-Crosstown LRT projectThe Mount Dennis site includes the LRT station, the maintenance and storage facility and generating station, image, Metrolinx

The Government of Ontario is fully funding the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project, by investing $5.3 billion to build it. When complete, the TTC and the City of Toronto will assume responsibility for operating the line.

We will follow construction developments at Mount Dennis and the Crosstown LRT as milestones occur. You can find out more about what is planned here in the meantime by viewing our dataBase file for the facility, linked below. Want to talk about it? You can join in the discussion in the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided on this page.