Union Station rail corridor public meeting #1

Metrolinx held its first public meeting for the proposed expansion of the Union Station Rail Corridor last night at the Lucie and Thornton Blackburn Conference Centre on the campus of George Brown College. Manuel Pedrosa—Community Relations Manager for Metrolinx—began the meeting and then passed the mike to James Hartley—Environmental Programs and Assessment Manager for Metrolinx. Hartley went on to describe the various changes to be made to the busy rail corridor with the help of a detailed slide presentation.

The goal of Metrolinx is to improve service along the lakeshore east line, shortening the wait time in between trains to 15 minutes for the entire schedule. The current wait times are 15 minutes only during peak rush hour, with wait times jumping to 30 minutes for the remainder of the complete operating schedule. This expansion would include 150km of new track as well as bridge and wing-wall extensions. There would be three new tracks added: E0, E7 and E8.

The area set for expansion extends from Lower Jarvis and continues east to the Don River wrapping around Corktown Commons park and heading north to just below Eastern ave.

Improvements would also include electrification of the new track labeled “E0”–the northernmost track bordering Longboat Lane—which would require additional infrastructure. Metrolinx plans to install an Overhead Catenary System similar to those found all over Europe. The OCS towers added to the proposed new track would bring the rail system closer to current homes and cut down on the size and types of trees between the track and street. This was a big concern among local residents as the trees provide a much-needed barrier for noise and smog caused by the railway.

Resident Paul Garry voiced his concerns during the question period at the end of the presentation. Garry has lived on Longboat Lane for the past 27 years and he remarked that none of the presentation slides showed any trees. This led him to ask, “Does that mean that you will be cutting down every tree between Parliament and Sherbourne?” Another resident added that the trees are a first landfall for migrating birds.

Hartley answered in the affirmative saying, “We need to expand this additional track. That means this additional track pushes the railway infrastructure another 14 feet closer to the houses. We need to accommodate the OCS poles.” The loss of trees is due to safety as the OCS poles would be carrying high-voltage electricity and a minimum distance of 2.5 M is needed. 

Hartley added that, “Maybe there is an opportunity to explore vegetation types and potential trees.” This comment was not well received by Garry and he responded, “With all due respect, the last time Metrolinx had meetings about that patch of land we had a nice presentation in our co-op office and not one tree got planted, but they didn’t cut them all down so no one cared.” 

Hartley explained that this was only the first public meeting as part of the overall Transit Project Assessment Process and that considerations will be made to do what’s best for the local environment. Hartley assured the audience that, “we are doing this as part of a TPAP and when we make commitments with a TPAP we are legally bonded to follow it.”

Another concern was idling trains.  Pedrosa explained that track congestion was the cause of the idling trains and that the expansion of the Wilson yard would reduce the effects of idling almost to zero. The proposed expansion to the Wilson yard—an under used rail yard that accommodates only trains carrying construction materials—would see the addition of five more tracks bringing the total up to eight. This would mean a grand total of 18 tracks between the current Don yard and the proposed Wilson yard.

There were also questions about noise and vibration causing cracks in the foundations of homes along the rail line. Two protocols followed by Metrolinx in regards to noise and vibrations are: the 1995 draft Transit Noise and Vibration Protocol and the 2013 Noise Guideline from the MOECC (Ministry of Environment and Climate Change). These protocols stipulate that mitigation must be considered if the project is expected to cause a 5 dB increase or greater to the average noise level.

At the end of the question period Claudia Calabro—a constituency assistant working with the city of Toronto—commented on the public meeting being held at the same date and time as a local community meeting which reduced the numbers of local residents who could attend. Pedrosa explained that this was only the first of many public meetings to be held and that previously there had been several smaller community meetings held in the area.

The TPAP Notice of Commencement is not slated until early fall later this year and Pedrosa assured that there will be more meetings between now and then and that concerns regarding noise, vibrations and the effect on the local environment will be taken under consideration.

— Steven Tymciw 

The complete presentation can be viewed at the following link.