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Residents reject Metrolinx’s plans for rail bridge to replace Davenport Diamond

At a public meeting Tuesday night, local residents emphatically rejected Metrolinx’s plans to build a rail bridge and demanded more local transit for Davenport.

The meeting convened by Metrolinx was officially billed as a chance for the community to get a preview of the transit planning agency’s plans for eliminating the Davenport Diamond rail crossing by building an estimated 8.5 metre high bridge over it to run GO Trains service on the Barrie line without interference form CP freight train traffic.

But based on the feedback it appeared most of the approximately 100 people in attendance at the Davenport Perth Community Centre were critical of the project.

“This is great for someone who lives in Barrie, but we’re not going to gain anything from this,” said John M., a resident of Paton Avenue who did not provide his last name. “I’m willing to make sacrifices for the community, but give me something too.”

Sam Barbieri said he was concerned by the scale of the bridge which Metrolinx is proposing to build from Bloor Street in the south to just north of Davenport Road. The Wallace Avenue resident was disappointed Metrolinx has already ruled out building an underpass to bury the GO tracks below CP freight train traffic due to a variety of concerns including cost and length and impact of construction.

“It sounds like it’s a done deal, we have no real input,” said Barbieri following the meeting. “We’d like to see all the options on getting rid of the Diamond, not just the overpass.”

During the meeting, Barbieri demanded local MPP Cristina Martins, also in attendance, intervene to stop the project, and received a sustained round of applause.

But Martins, a Liberal, stuck to her government’s record on transit. She said the bridge would significantly benefit GO service on Barrie by no longer having to compete with CP trains for rail space.

“We can’t have (the Barrie line) going as frequent as we want if we have to keep stopping the trains to allow the CP trains to go,” Martins said. That led to a few vocal residents wondering if her allegiances lay more with suburban GO riders than her local constituents

Local city councillor Ana Bailao struck a more cautious tone compared to Martins, saying city staff including chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat would keep track of the EA process.

Bailao, who also promised the city will continue to push Metrolinx to add a new GO stop at Bloor Street west of Lansdowne Avenue, said she would hold her own public consultations in order to inform residents of Metrolinx’s plans.

“I want us as a community to have the arguments and information to make a sensible decision for our area,” Bailao said. “(The overpass) will have an impact on our community for the next hundred years.”

Metrolinx intends to launch a transit project-oriented Environmental Assessment (EA) study for the overpass project in September which will take six months to complete and approve, followed by a final review from the province. If the project is approved, construction of the bridge could begin by 2019.

Even before the EA has begun, Metrolinx has organized a 36-member advisory panel entirely made up of local residents which will meet regularly until June to come up with recommendations for improving publicly owned rail land which will become free once the Davenport overpass is built.

Frances Kong, one of the panel’s members, said she was happy to hear from her fellow residents even if the comments were largely unfavourable towards building an overpass.

“In the short-term, there’s a negative impact with construction and the noise and dust caused by it,” she said. “But in the long-term, the bridge will benefit our community.”

Reposted from the Bloor West Villager. Read the original story: Here.