Toronto Star

Metrolinx making move on overpass

Residents switch from fight over project to improving it

- TESS KALINOWSKI TRANSPORTA­TION REPORTER

Residents along the train tracks may have lost the fight to stop Metrolinx from building a three-storey rail overpass near Davenport Rd. north of Bloor St.

But that doesn’t resolve the broader issue of reconcilin­g the tight deadlines of the province’s massive GO expansion with Toronto’s city-building agenda, says the local councillor.

Metrolinx will move ahead with the approvals process for the 1.5kilometre rail bridge in January, rather than the spring as the city had expected. The provincial agency says its schedule for the electrifie­d regional express rail program won’t permit further delay.

The bridge — which has been referred to as a Gardiner Expressway for GO trains — will allow all-day, two-way service on the Barrie line by eliminatin­g the Davenport diamond where those tracks intersect with the CP freight corridor.

Even if CP and CN agree to move freight off the corridor in favour of a new freight line north of the city, Metrolinx says the Davenport rail-to-rail crossing needs to be eliminated to make way for more commuter trains.

Davenport residents wanted to look at putting the tracks in a tunnel rather than building a giant $120million bridge from about Bloor St. to Dupont St. Metrolinx says tunneling would cost up to four times as much and take years longer.

Once the approvals process kicks in, “it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to derail the proposed outcome that Metrolinx will be seeking,” deputy city manager John Livey told Toronto’s Planning and Growth Committee on Monday.

Kevin Putnam of the Junction Triangle Rail Committee says his group has given up fighting the bridge to focus on making sure the structure is as attractive as possible.

“Metrolinx is going to jam this on the neighbourh­ood. I think there’s enough political will to mediate the impact, make it better . . . Just like the Gardiner plan we’re seeing, there are lots of ways to make it better,” he said.

Councillor Ana Bailao says a tunnel would better meet city-building principles. She wants assurances that the bridge will come with a stop in the neighbourh­ood, as well as public realm improvemen­ts.

The community needs to continue pressing the point that the project has to both benefit the region as a whole and the communitie­s all along the train line, she said.

“Everybody agrees we need the regional express rail (the provincial plan to run GO trains at 15-minute frequencie­s in some key stretches), everybody believes more transit is the way to go. It’s just how you’re going to produce that,” she said.

Metrolinx planned to launch the approval process last summer but delayed until fall to give the city more time to review the bridge proposal. CEO Bruce McCuaig said he was aware the city had asked to extend that to the spring, but Metrolinx could only wait until January if it was to meet its service targets.

Queen’s Park has promised to add 50 per cent more GO service in five years and to increase the1,500 trips a week it runs now to about 6,000 by 2024.

Consulting the community is important, said McCuaig. But so is delivering the service.

“We’re going to have to balance the (public) engagement with the desire for more service,” he said. “In the end, what the regional community wants is more transit service.”

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