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Toronto council asking Metrolinx to delay its Environmental Assessment on proposed overpass

The city is seeking further details about Metrolinx’s Davenport Overpass proposal, and it wants them before an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project officially begins.

This week, Toronto council voted unanimously to endorse a member motion from Davenport city councillor Ana Bailao calling on Metrolinx to address staff concerns, as outlined in a recent letter by chief city planner Jennifer Keesmaat, over its proposal to build an 8.5 metre high overpass between Bloor Street and Davenport Road for GO Transit commuter trains servicing the Barrie Line, as part of its Regional Express Rail (RER) expansion plans.

The motion also asks Metrolinx to extend its schedule for the project by two to three months to allow enough time to get the city’s concerns addressed. Metrolinx intends to launch the EA sometime in September and Bailao is concerned there’s not enough time before then to have the project’s key questions answered.

“We understand these are issues which need to be looked at and need to be funded. We need to have a conversation about that,” said Bailao following Thursday’s council vote. “We need to understand how they came to the conclusion the overpass is the most beneficial (option).”

Metrolinx announced plans to study the building of what local residents are terming a “super bridge” back in March.

The move, according to the provincial transit planning agency, would eliminate the busy Davenport Diamond grade rail crossing – where CP freight trains headed east and west converge and sometimes interfere with the north-south Barrie line trains – allowing GO service to improve.

But in her letter to Metrolinx executive vice-president James Purkis, Keesmaat expresses concerns her staff has had little time to effectively review Metrolinx’s plans before the EA is scheduled to begin.

“I should note that identification of these issues, implications and community impacts has occurred in an extremely compressed time frame, particularly when considering the scale of infrastructure and the long term implications this option presents,” writes Keesmaat in the letter sent to Purkis on June 16.

Included in the city’s list of asks: a better understanding of the bridge option as opposed to burying or trenching the rail crossing, more input in an ongoing review by Metrolinx on the merits of creating a new GO Station at the intersection of Bloor and Lansdowne Avenue and seeking better cycling and pedestrian connections for Bloor as well as Dupont Street.

Bailao’s motion also asks for Metrolinx to explain how it will fund promised street improvements promised for the lands under the bridge area which are being determined by a special residents’ advisory panel organized by Metrolinx to come up with beautification options.

“Lots of pictures of been shown to the community about parks and art under the bridge and we want to make sure they’re actually funded and not pretty pictures in a paper,” Bailao said.

While the city has made its concerns known, Bailao conceded it has no power to force Metrolinx to give the answers it wants, or delay the start of the overpass EA, and can only request the agency to work more closely with city staff to resolve the issues.

“We just want to make sure this is a project we’re all going to be proud of that will benefit the community as a whole,” she said.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said the agency is willing to work with city staff.

“We will work with City staff over the summer to address any concerns so that City staff are able to provide an opinion to council in the fall,” she said over email.

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