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.”
KEEPING RAIL SAFE
Helen Vassilakos along the midtown Toronto rail corridor