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Residents wary of Metrolinx’s plans to eliminate Davenport Diamond with ‘super bridge’

West-end residential groups who say they’ve been burned by Metrolinx in the past, are taking a wait-and-see approach in regards to the provincial transit planning agency’s prospective plans to build a “super bridge” to eliminate the busy Davenport Diamond rail crossing.

Metrolinx confirmed it is resurrecting a study of separating GO and CP freight train traffic which converges upon the Diamond, located on the rail tracks northeast of Dupont Street and Lansdowne Avenue, which was abandoned in 2010. A streamlined version of a provincial environmental assessment study required for transit infrastructure projects will launch in late summer and is expected to take six months.

Metrolinx plans to study a single option of separating the Diamond train traffic by building a rail bridge roughly from just north of Bloor Street to just beyond Davenport Road to elevate the GO Barrie line several metres over the CP tracks.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said building a bridge is expected to cost $120–$500 million less than building a tunnel to house the Barrie line tracks – take two less years to construct, and produce less noise, truck traffic and dust from construction.

Aikins said Metrolinx is also taking the unprecedented step of establishing a 36-person public consultation panel which will be made up of residents living along the corridor to provide input for what do with the “unlocked” lands in the areas below where the bridge could be built, options which could include improving public parks, street beautification options and creating more public space.

“A Residents’ Reference Panel will provide an opportunity for residents to directly influence the shape and character of the Davenport Community for years to come,” said Aikins over email.

But Donna Cowan is wary. She cites concerns with the “transparency” of past consultations for the Georgetown South rail improvements for the Union Pearson (UP) Express, which left local residents with “non-electric trains and big, ugly noise walls”.

“Here comes Metrolinx again, and here’s another rail project,” said Cowan a resident and core member of the Dupont Improvement Group (DIGIN). “Moving into this we have our guard up.”

Kevin Putnam was a vocal opponent of the noise walls, which went up along the Georgetown south corridor earlier this year in advance of UP’s planned launch for the spring.

The member of the Junction Triangle Rail Committee said after consulting last week with Metrolinx officials about plans for the Diamond, he came away feeling the plan for the bridge, which he likened to building “the Gardiner Expressway through the neighbourhood”, is set in stone.

Putnam also dismissed the consultation panel which Metrolinx has already advertised for by sending notices to approximately 10,000 residents in the Davenport area, saying it provides the illusion local residents have a say in the project although the decision has been made to proceed with the bridge over all other options, including burying the GO Tracks.

“It’s a highly manipulated consultation, designed to keep active residents off it,” Putnam said. “I would like to see Metrolinx put all the options on the table and have a real consultation.”

Matt Forrest, who attended a public meeting with Metrolinx organized by DIGIN in Davenport last week, was also skeptical the agency actually wants input from the local community, saying there’s no indication of how much money Metrolinx is willing to spend on beautifying or improving any of the space below the where the bridge is to be built.

He also criticized local MPP Cristina Martins, who was elected following last year’s provincial election, for not pressuring Metrolinx to include more options beyond the bridge.

“Our MPP sounds like she’s toeing the party line and not even considering trying to get the GO tracks tunneled below the CP freight tracks like they did for the UP Express,” said Forrest over email.

In an interview this week, Martins said she consulted with Metrolinx officials in early February and is confident enough is being done to ensure the community is heard. She said a tunnel was never an option even with previous planning for removing the Diamond, but rather a “trench” which would disrupt traffic and cost too much considering the benefits provided.

“At some point you have to trust what is being said to you, and not knowing what that bridge is going to look like tells me Metrolinx is looking for input,” Martins said this week.

The politician said she was not a part of the previous consultations for the UP noise walls, but suggested Metrolinx has learned from the past controversy.

“Perhaps the community felt that those consultations should have happened earlier, well this time they’re happening earlier,” she said.

She said she’d be willing to host a further public meeting for Davenport Diamond consultations should the need arise.

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