If Davenport residents are going to have “the monstrosity” of an 8.5-metre elevated rail bridge built through their community, they want trains to stop in the neighbourhood and they want street-level improvements beneath the structure.
But first, city staff need to determine if the 1.5-km bridge on the Barrie GO line really is a better option than a trench that would put the train tracks below grade, says the Davenport councillor.
Ana Bailao was behind a council motion last month that asked Metrolinx to delay its environmental assessment of the dual-track bridge, which would run north of Bloor St. to south of Davenport Rd. City staff need the time to determine whether a bridge is preferable to burying the rails, she said.
“This thing’s going to have a huge impact on the neighbourhood — no matter what happens. Even if it is a tunnel it will have an impact, and the city needs to be involved and understand what it is,” said Bailao.
Metrolinx, the provincial agency overseeing GO’s massive electrified service expansion, regional express rail(RER), has agreed to postpone the start of the six-month environmental assessment from the end of this month to the end of October.
The delay would also allow Metrolinx to review plans for a stop at Lansdowne and Bloor.
“If the thing’s going to go through our community, we might as well push for the stop, which is in our official plan anyway,” said Bailão.
The bridge is designed to eliminate the busy Davenport Diamond near Dupont St. and Lansdowne Ave. , so GO Transit can run all-day, two-way service on the Barrie tracks without freight traffic disruptions.
“I think the city and Metrolinx are both interested in ensuring this is the best possible project for the community,” said Erin Moroz, Metrolinx director of community relations and communications for RER.
The estimated $120 million cost of the bridge is about $500 million less than creating a below-grade crossing. It could also be completed two years earlier.
Putting the track in a trench also involves a different set of noise and safety considerations, Moroz said. The rails would need to be fenced, so the same street-level community improvements wouldn’t be possible.
Cost alone can’t determine what’s built, said Bailao. Other factors including safety and emergency contingencies have to be considered.
“If there are all these constraints that won’t allow for the trenching and the tunneling, how do we make this a benefit for this community? I think we deserve the best in this community, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for,” she said.
Metrolinx needs to make good on its promise to pay for parks and street improvements, she said. It can’t simply build the bridge and then tell the city it’s on the hook for those costs.
A Metrolinx spokeswoman said those kinds of improvements are now part of every project. But it’s too soon to say exactly how much money will be allocated.
There is no support for the bridge among area residents, said Kevin Putnam, of the Junction Triangle Rail Committee.
“Residents seem to fall into two camps — adamantly opposed to a bridge, or think a bridge is inevitable but want a better proposal than the vague commitment currently being presented by Metrolinx,” he said.
The delay in the environmental assessment “allows residents to make a case for a better bridge plan if the government decides to proceed,” Putnam said.
Reposted from the Toronto Star. Read the original story: Here.