Cristina Martins, the Liberal MPP for Davenport, says given significant outstanding questions and concerns, she is “not prepared” to allow Metrolinx to proceed with plans to construct a massive overpass through the middle of a dense Toronto neighbourhood in her riding. In making the announcement Monday night, Martins joins the two local city councillors, Toronto city planning staff, Toronto city council and the area’s Member of Parliament, Julie Dzerowicz, in opposing a project that has been called “rushed,” “unprecedented” and “irresponsible” by critics.
“I am not prepared – not prepared – to allow this project to go on,” MPP Martins told a jam-packed community consultation meeting hosted by Metrolinx. It’s estimated more than 500 residents attended, although some were pushed into an overflow room and others left due to lack of space.
“I am prepared to write a letter to the Minister of the Environment to ask them to delay this project, because there are too many questions that remain unanswered in this room. And if there are questions that remain unanswered, concerns that still haven’t been addressed, residents that are still unsure, residents that feel that they’re being taken advantage of, if those concerns remain in the community then those concerns are mine,” MPP Martins said.
Standing room only at Metrolinx meeting, January 18, 2016
Last week, Metrolinx unveiled a series of new-and-improved renderings of its proposed elevated expressway, which will stand 3 storeys high and shuttle as many as 180 trains per day through the Davenport community. The 1.4km route will pass within metres of houses and condos, as well as businesses and playgrounds.
Options for Davenport, which was permitted to make a presentation at the meeting, praised Metrolinx for coming to the table with better options, but again questioned the “unholy rush” in pushing the overpass plan through, given the long-standing implications the structure will have on the community.
“In addition to (the) concerns about safety, pollution, noise, I think why many of us are here tonight is more than just that. I think it’s a much bigger issue, a fundamental issue, of whether or not we can trust what we’re being told,” said Options Chair, Laura Zeglen.
Zeglen called out the provincial transit agency on the lack of consultation, incorrect calculations for the UP Express and Metrolinx’s ongoing PR spin — such as a recent decision to rename the overpass a friendlier-sounding “guideway” and claims that the bridge will be half the original size, when in fact its footprint will be the same because of longer berm sections — as evidence that the agency is still trying to “railroad” residents.
Even the latest drawings are misleading, Options spokesperson Sam Barbieri said.
“None of the renderings show the bridge near any of the homes or condos. It’s like no body lives here. It’s like the bridge exists in a vast meadow,” he said. He pointed out one of the drawings suggests Metrolinx has plans to build a public square on Wallace Ave — except the apparent proposed site is currently a storage facility business.
“Is Metrolinx prepared to expropriate the land?” he asked.
City Councillor Ana Bailao called on Metrolinx to “step it up” if it truly values community support.
“I keep hearing from Metrolinx that you’ve delayed the process because of the city, we’ve delayed the process because of the community. No you didn’t. You missed a step in this. You did not consult the city. You did not consult with the community,” Bailao said. “This is not our problem, this is your fault… there might be issues (with the tunnel, but), we don’t know.”
Bailao, along with city council and now MPP Martins, has asked that Metrolinx conduct a full environmental assessment to study the implications of building a tunnel versus an elevated overpass or trench.
Metrolinx has announced that they plan to start their expedited study of only the elevated overpass next week.
Contact: Sam Barbieri, spokesperson: firstname.lastname@example.org.