Bayview Post - - CURRENTS | THE BIG READ -

ex­pan­sion of the Al­berta oil­sands, mak­ing it that much more dif­fi­cult for Canada to meet its com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing emis­sions un­der the Paris Agree­ment on cli­mate change.

What would you do if a train car­ry­ing oil, or worse, de­railed down the street from your condo at Spad­ina Road and Dupont Street?

In 2016, it hap­pened. There was a de­rail­ment on Aug. 21 of that year of a CP Rail train near the in­ter­sec­tion of Dupont and How­land Av­enue.

Al­though the in­ci­dent was mi­nor, it did re­veal what not to do. Lo­cal res­i­dents came out of their homes en masse to in­ves­ti­gate what hap­pened and find out in­for­ma­tion.

“[Af­ter the 2016 de­rail­ment,] we were in­un­dated with calls and emails. Peo­ple ac­tu­ally ran out of their homes,” Vas­si­lakos ex­plained. “Peo­ple did not know what do, and the city hadn’t been around to tell them. We spoke to the city, and they didn’t even have a pro­to­col or re­source for res­i­dents.”

Safe Rail Com­mu­ni­ties iden­ti­fied the gap, got a grant and spent a year and a half work­ing on a rail safety tool kit for res­i­dents.

The safety kit con­tains sug­ges­tions re­lated to emer­gency pre­pared­ness and get­ting ready to “shel­ter in place” at home.

Ac­cord­ing to the group Rail Safety First, re­lo­ca­tion of the mid­town Toronto CP Rail line was rec­om­mended by the Grange Royal Com­mis­sion Re­port on the Novem­ber 1979 de­rail­ment and ex­plo­sion of a CP freight train in Mis­sis­sauga. Other safety mea­sures in­clude de­creas­ing speeds through ur­ban ar­eas and a con­ver­sion to safer rail cars. Mat­low agrees. “I am call­ing on the fed­eral govern­ment to im­me­di­ately see all of the dan­ger­ous Dot-111 cars [the type in­volved in the LacMé­gan­tic tragedy] pulled from use and en­sure, when crude oil is moved, that they are not on cars al­ready known to be in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous,” he said.

It is un­likely re­lo­ca­tion will hap­pen, ac­cord­ing to Vas­si­lakos, who is also con­cerned with devel­op­ment growth along Dupont.

In 2017, there was some con­tro­versy when a lo­cal de­vel­oper wanted to build a mixed-use devel­op­ment right be­side the rail line. The City re­fused the ap­pli­ca­tion based in part on safety con­cerns. It was ap­pealed to the On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal Board, and a de­ci­sion is still pend­ing

But there are plenty more such ap­pli­ca­tions as Dupont has be­come one of the fastest grow­ing stretches of road in the city for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial devel­op­ment.

“Of course we are con­cerned with more and more devel­op­ment hap­pen­ing around rail lines,” said Vas­si­lakos. “It’s the city’s de­ci­sion. The Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties guide­line is 30 me­tres. But the city can just say no. It’s up to the city to de­cide.”


He­len Vas­si­lakos along the mid­town Toronto rail cor­ri­dor

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