Annex trains a disaster waiting to happen?
New study to address local concerns about Dupont development and chemical spills
In light of two train derailments near Dupont Street and Howland Avenue in the two years, safety concerns have prompted the City of Toronto to undertake a new study that may impact future development along the CP Rail corridor in Toronto.
Guidelines for development around rail lands were put in place for Dupont Street in 2014, and a new study may reassess those guidelines and extend them citywide. Five public consultation meetings were held in November for Phase 1 of the City Planning Rail and Land Use Study.
Ward 20 councillor Joe Cressy said development in the city is “booming,” so available rail lands next to the tracks look more desirable to developers, making this study of the railway corridor all the more critical. He said that rail companies, the federal government and the city all have a role to play.
“I think the derailment a little over a year ago at Dupont and Howland shows more is still needed,” said Cressy.
Stephen Boujikian, of the Dupont by the Castle business improvement association (BIA), owns two businesses on Dupont that abut the tracks.
“The railway through Toronto is dangerous because of the materials that are on it, the lack of security and the concentration of people close to it, large numbers potentially. It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Boujikian.
He also noted his concern about possible soil and water contamination.
“The toxic chemicals that come off the derailments go into the soil and stay [there],” he said. “That’s never been removed and tested. And it still hasn’t been.”
However safety concerns haven’t dissuaded developers who remain keen on the area. Tridel already owns one property on Dupont Street and Jim Ritchie, executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Tridel, said the company is looking at purchasing another.
“We like the area, and we are pursuing a second location,” he said. “With the appropriate precautions put in place, we believe it’s safe and viable. We think there’s a great opportunity on this corridor.”
Current guidelines call for a minimum setback of 30 metres from the railroad and one developer on the Dupont strip has also proposed adding a noise-reducing concrete wall between a development and the tracks.
Cressy said the study is looking at more development guidelines for over 200 railways corridors and yards in the city. “Just as we put in place clear parameters … [and] established our plan for Dupont, there is a need to do the same right across the City of Toronto,” he said.
The train derailment at Dupont and Howland in 2016