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PRESS RELEASE: Letter to Cristina Martins, MPP for Davenport

Dear Cristina Martins,

Thank you again for meeting with Options for Davenport earlier this month, and also for your letter to Minister Del Duca. We appreciate that you granted this request from our meeting to write such a letter, and our community welcomes this effort to make our concerns known to provincial level decision-makers.

While your letter to Minister Del Duca did raise some of the issues around our concerns, we feel it was not nearly as strongly-worded as it could have been to truly convey the urgency and seriousness of our concerns. With Metrolinx planning to begin their TPAP in January, we no longer have time for just letting others know we have concerns; it is time to take action on assertively expressing what needs to be done to address them.

As you are aware from our meeting, Options for Davenport has been very active in the Davenport community raising awareness about the planned Metrolinx rail overpass in our neighbourhood, having collected well over 1000 signatures on our petition to date, in addition to distributing lawn signs for our Davenport Deserves Better campaign (the printing of which has been made possible by the donations of concerned residents). While our neighbourhood supports investing in public transit, and we welcome expansion in our community, we have serious reservations with the current overpass plans, particularly regarding noise and vibration, pollution, visual impacts and safety concerns with an elevated expressway for trains that will run, at points, within mere metres of our homes and businesses. Furthermore, it has been raised by City of Toronto staff and other experts that elevated expressways can have the effect of “sterilizing” the space around them, rendering the areas directly around them as cultural wastelands. Hence the building of such infrastructure has fallen into disfavour among city planning experts around the world, and many cities are choosing to dismantle their existing elevated structures in favour of tunneling them instead.

So residents in Davenport are left wondering: why does the province feel that building such a structure in our community is acceptable? Are we not worth the investment to build this infrastructure with long-term community well-being in mind? Are we simply expendable, a concession to be made in order for interregional transit goals to be achieved? Now more than ever, we need your support in advocating to provincial decision-makers to save our community.

As a community we were thrilled to have the support of the City on this issue when they voted overwhelmingly against an overpass and in favour of a tunnel. Furthermore, our federal MP Julie Dzerowicz has expressed her own serious reservations with the current project. But despite our very real concerns being echoed at both the municipal and federal level, we are worried that these concerns are not being heard at the provincial level, where the power on this decision ultimately lies, as Metrolinx plans to push ahead with the overpass plan.

At this time, a tunnel appears to be a vastly preferable option to the overpass; but before we can make this decision, we would require that the impacts and benefits of this option be studied to the same extent as the overpass option, including how potential negative impacts on existing communities along the rail corridor could be eliminated through creative engineering and design plans. There are undoubtedly options available that can ensure that no community has to suffer at the expense of another, but to find these solutions requires both time and true community consultation.

We also acknowledge that this optimal solution will likely require more significant financial investment than what is currently on the table; to coordinate this will require that stakeholders representing various levels of government work together respectfully, and not as adversaries, in recognizing their shared goals in this project.

As the Federal Minister of Infrastructure Amarjeet Sohi was recently quoted as saying, “You can’t talk about infrastructure without talking about the community aspect of it. It is a means of building strong, sustainable, livable communities that we all want to be part of.” Furthermore, in the Metrolinx Act of 2006, it is clearly outlined that one of their objectives is to “support[s] a high quality of life, a sustainable environment and a strong, prosperous and competitive economy”. Yet, the current project compromises all these critical elements of their mandate, by threatening to damage the liveability of our up-and-coming community for residents, as well as for businesses big and small that are increasingly being attracted to our neighbourhood.

Because of the various levels of stakeholders implicated in such a major infrastructure project, we feel strongly that stakeholders representing these various levels should be working together in whatever decision is made. Yet to date, there has been no real dialogue between Metrolinx/the province and our community; the conversation has essentially been one-sided, with Metrolinx telling the community what it is doing, and the community being put in the position to defend ourselves when these plans threaten to degrade the place we call home. The so-called “consultation” of Metrolinx has felt calculated and disingenuous, and the community does not buy-in to Metrolinx’s claims that they care about the well-being of our community.

At this point, you could make a real positive impact on our community by strongly advocating to the province for the following:

  • a delay on the project to allow further study, given the significant concerns from the community, City and our local MP, and putting a pause on the TPAP currently scheduled to begin in January 2016;

  • a commitment on the part of Metrolinx to fully study other options, including the tunnel option, and to be completely transparent about the specifics of these studies (i.e. what items/issues they have considered in their assessment of impacts and benefits, and who they communicated with to get their information);

  • a commitment on the part of Metrolinx and the province to work meaningfully with municipal and federal elected representatives, as well as the Davenport community, to design the project so that it can be aligned with other important community-building and City objectives, and to be accountable to agreements made in these dialogues; and

  • that more provincial-level funding be allocated to this project, in recognizing the magnitude of negative impacts on this community if an overpass is built. If building this grade separation infrastructure is as important as the province says, it is worth the time and financial investment to build it properly for the long-term.

As a community, we thank you for becoming involved in this issue. We look forward to continuing to work with you as we work toward a solution that works not only for provincial mandates, but for the local community that you represent.

With best wishes,

Laura Zeglen

Chair of Options for Davenport

CC: Minister Del Duca, Premier Wynne, Minister Murray, MPP Albanese, Mayor Tory, Jennifer Keesmaat, Councillor Shiner, Councillor Bailao, Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Sohi, MP Vaughan, MP Dzerowicz, Bruce McCuaig, Judy Pfiefer.