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Toronto council doesn’t want Davenport rail bridge

Toronto city council is blasting Ontario’s transportation agency and its plan for a big elevated rail bridge through Davenport neighbourhood, demanding Premier Kathleen Wynne intervene.

“We’re talking about a huge (ongoing) transformation, revitalization in this area, that could get severely impacted if you put this Gardiner Expressway-in-the-sky flying over this community, with trains going back and forth all day long,” thundered planning and growth chair Councillor David Shiner.

Davenport Councillor Ana Bailão said her residents support provincial electric rail expansion but “we don’t want to be the community known as the train-watching community,” with, eventually, up to 180 a day overhead.

Others questioned Toronto’s future relations with the Metrolinx agency and its regional express rail plan, including agreements that compel the city to pay a share of some construction costs.

Council also repeated its demand that the province put elected officials to the GO/Metrolinx board.

Metrolinx is proceeding with an approvals plan in January for the 1.5-km, three-storey overpass despite strong community opposition — many want them to consider a train tunnel instead — and a city request to delay until spring.

The overpass, from Bloor St. to Dupont St., is forecast to cost more than $140 million. Metrolinx says tunnelling would cost up to four times as much and take years longer.

The agency’s chief executive Bruce McCuaig told the Star last month that delaying approvals for the overpass would jeopardize service targets for completing all-day, two-way service on the Barrie-Toronto line.

Council voted 38-1 to tell Metrolinx it opposes the overpass and supports a tunnel. Council also wants Wynne to intervene and meet with Mayor John Tory “as soon as possible to express council’s concerns.”

City planner Jennifer Keesmaat told council she wanted full study and evaluation of the overpass, tunnel and a “trench” option, but Metrolinx timelines don’t allow for that. With the information at hand, city staff determined a tunnel would disrupt the area’s revitalization the least, she said.

Overpasses have fallen out of favour worldwide, she added, “because of the visual impacts, as well as the noise impacts, you tend to sterilize the areas around this elevated infrastructure.”

In a statement after council’s vote, Metrolinx said it respects the input but has consulted residents and “we have committed to developing design concepts that ensure spaces around any structure will be vibrant, welcoming and green spaces” for them.

“Metrolinx has been clear we will work with the community on community improvements, noise and vibration mitigation and that we are considering a station at Bloor.”

After the council vote Laura Zeglen, chair of residents’ group Options for Davenport, called on Metrolinx to “properly study the logistics, impact and cost of a tunnel so that we can get on with smart transit expansion that will help — not hurt — communities,” and demanded their Liberal MPP, Cristina Martins, fight with them.

Reposted from the Toronto Star. Read the original story: Here.