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Options for Davenport starts its own environmental assessment for rail crossing replacement

As Metrolinx is launching its Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP) for the contentious Davenport Diamond overpass, a local grassroots organization announced a plan to conduct its own environmental assessment.

The Ontario transit agency’s six-month long TPAP, beginning Thursday, Jan. 28, will only examine the option for an overpass, ignoring the community and elected officials’ requests to study all three options – a tunnel, a trench, as well as the overpass, charged Options for Davenport.

Under the new moniker, Guideway, the elevated two-track bridge would eliminate the Davenport Diamond rail crossing where GO Transit intersects with CP freight trains. The bridge, Metrolinx says, is necessary in order to double the current Barrie line GO train service.

Options for Davenport will conduct its Environmental Assessment (EA) over the following four months and will rely on the province’s own EA framework.

“We’ve reached out to a few prominent planners,” spokesperson Sam Barbieri told The Villager.

Among the more than 1,500 supporters of the group, there are professional architects, engineers, designers, professors, lawyers and artists.

“It’s become clear that Metrolinx is bent on taking shortcuts so we’ve concluded that the only way to find answers to our concerns is to utilize the talent within our community and dig those answers up ourselves,” he said.

The group will execute its EA study in three phases: overpass; trench; and tunnel over the next 120 days. This is the amount of time that Metrolinx has to receive and respond to concerns regarding its bridge plans from other regulatory agencies and members of the public. Once that time is up, all responses must be included in the final project report, which must then be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

Options will continue to undertake significant door-to-door community consultation and polling in addition to its monthly meetings. Barbieri admits he has no idea how his group’s EA will be received.

“Metrolinx and the provincial government has ignored us thus far,” he said. “We’ll try to study this as best we can, all three options.”

Options for Davenport chair Laura Zeglen acknowledged that its grassroots EA is not going to be as technically thorough as the kind of report that Metrolinx could have produced given the group’s resources, yet she believes people are going to be surprised with what it comes up with.

“The bottom line is this: Davenport residents are going to have a say, in a meaningful and real way, in what happens to their community,” Zeglen said in a statement. “Metrolinx has made some encouraging adjustments to their plans recently, but they haven’t gone far enough. There is still no dedicated public realm improvement funding, no commitment to a stop in the neighbourhood, no clear plan for noise, vibration and pollution mitigation. And their decision to move forward with the TPAP against all advice is troubling.”

Recently, residents packed the Davenport Perth Neighbourhood Centre to see Metrolinx’s updated designs for the bridge, which has now been reduced in length, although the project footprint remains the same at 1.4 kilometres from Bloor Street to just south of Davenport Road.

“If Metrolinx won’t study the options, we will,” Zeglen said.

With files from Rahul Gupta

Reposted from Inside Toronto. Link to the original story: Here.