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PRESS RELEASE: Letter to Mayor John Tory

December 8, 2015

 

 

Laura Zeglen, Chair

Options for Davenport

 

Dear Mayor John Tory,

 

I am writing in response to the proposed rail overpass through Davenport that is being proposed by Metrolinx: the Davenport Community Rail Overpass. I understand that City staff have also been studying options to eliminate the Davenport Diamond, and on December 3, the Deputy City Manager, Chief Planner and Executive Director released a report strongly advocating against the overpass, in favour of either a tunnel or further studying “the Missing Link” which would effectively eliminate the need for a grade separation while moving dangerous freight out of our residential community.

 

Voters in Davenport have made it clear that while we support expansion of interregional transit through our community, an overpass is not an acceptable option. While canvassing our neighbourhoods and delivering lawn signs as part of our “Davenport Deserves Better” campaign, we were able to collect nearly 1100 signatures (and counting). Dozens of local businesses have also posted our signs in solidarity. Metrolinx’s approach of pushing through this project reflects poorly not only on planners at Metrolinx, but also to their lack of consideration for communities within the City of Toronto.

 

You have stated that you would like to see the City and Metrolinx come to a resolution on the tensions that have arisen over the controversial Davenport rail overpass, and I understand that it is your mandate to work together as a council with other levels of government in a “productive, collaborative manner”. For this, I commend you. But in this particular case, it appears that Metrolinx is trying to bully the City into accepting its plans that are unacceptable from a city-building perspective. To allow this project to be rushed through as it has currently been proposed, given the serious reservations of local residents, businesses and City staff, would set a dangerous precedent for how Metrolinx will move forward with other transit expansion projects within the City of Toronto. It could also prove divisive among City Council members, who do not want to see a Gardiner-like structure being built through a residential community (especially given the amount of time that was recently spent talking about dismantling the actual Gardiner).

 

This project, as proposed, appears to deliver little benefit to local residents, while imposing huge impacts on the community. The overpass option raises several significant concerns, including (but not limited to):

  • Significant noise and vibration from passing trains, including rail and engine noise; – Significant visual impact on homes, businesses1 and parklands adjacent to the rail corridor, including several new developments2; – Significant shadow to be cast on properties adjacent to the rail corridor, as well as the space beneath the overpass;

  • Poor quality space beneath the overpass (dark, noisy), limiting its utility as usable public space and providing a haven for illegal activities;

  • Safety concerns related to derailments of elevated trains running so close to homes and businesses (in sections, mere metres away);

  • Wasted opportunities to address other community needs such as the need for green space, the need to reduce stress and noise pollution associated with high (and increasing) levels of train traffic, and connectivity and safety of major streets.

The Metrolinx Feasibility Report released on September 30 suggests that other options, including a tunnel, are in fact feasible. The tunnel option (as compared to the proposed overpass) appears to offer the greatest long-term benefits and fewest impacts to the Davenport community, while satisfying the objectives of Metrolinx’s RER plan. While its upfront costs are higher, other costs (not borne by Metrolinx) will arguably be higher over the long term, including:

  • Impacts on health and well-being of local residents;

  • Economic repercussions should local businesses (e.g. Ubisoft) be forced to leave the community;

  • Costs of maintaining the space below the bridge.

Additionally, Metrolinx have been very clear in their Feasibility Report that the $140M figure is for the overpass only, and does not include any upgrades to the basic structure, noise walls, amenities around/below the bridge, or a station. Furthermore, electrification of the line will be treated as a separate project, and hence increased diesel trains will be running at an elevated height through this community for several years should this project proceed as planned.

 

Finally, the accelerated timeline being pushed by Metrolinx appears artificial and unsupported by any compelling business case as to why this particular project must be rushed. As an example of Metrolinx’s questionable numbers used for decision-making, the current daily ridership of the Barrie line (15,385)- a commuter line that runs through but does not service our community- is roughly on par with that of 2014 ridership statistics for the local Lansdowne bus (15,400), and only one third that of the local Dufferin bus (44,000). As a further example, rushing the building of the nearby Union-Pearson Express train, which runs diesel trains through our community at 7.5 minute intervals, was justified as an urgent project that needed to be completed in time for the Pan Am games. Now, that service runs at far below its projected ridership levels, at less than 10% capacity, while local commuters are left demanding more access to transit. So Metrolinx has given little reason to believe that their projections are accurate or that expediting the expansion of this project is justified in terms of the costs to this community over the long term.

 

My request of you is that the City of Toronto advocate to the Province for a solution that offers innovative solutions for improving our community while also serving those using the commuter trains that run past our homes. Such a solution would provide good quality green space, not a dark and noisy underpass beneath a train bridge. It would also not introduce additional noisy and polluting diesel trains above grade that will interfere with the community’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Thank you for your consideration. I am hoping we can count on your support.

 

Respectfully,

Laura Zeglen

Chair of Options for Davenport

 

With the support of

Business Improvement Association of Bloordale

Bloordale Community Improvement Association

Bloor Improvement Group

 

***

 

1. Businesses include Ubisoft, a major local employer situated directly adjacent to the tracks and whose work is so sensitive to vibrations that they currently do not work while morning and evening trains pass by. Ubisoft’s employees have supported other local small businesses in recent years, including many new cafes and restaurants.

 

2. The proposed new Toronto Public Library at 299 Campbell, to be built as part of a new condo development (being discussed at the session of City Council) may be at risk should the overpass proposal be pushed forward, as it will be adjacent to the rail corridor and condo units may prove difficult to sell.

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