Metrolinx will be installing noise walls along the tracks that run through Weston, but residents closer to downtown are getting worked up about the possibilities and asking for an improved design.
The walls will be up to 5m (15′) high, and some of the designs are quite ugly—all concrete and plexiglass.
Others are attractive, but downtown residents worry that they will cast large shadows, attract graffiti, and reduce the green space.
It could be worse. If Metrolinx builds the walls on the cheap, we will be stuck with a monstrosity that cuts through the neighbourhood. Below is a rendering of a street in Mount Dennis, done by the firm Brown + Storey.
Instead, Brown + Storey propose ‘living walls’, which use vegetation and more natural materials to reduce the noise. They say,
the new rail link does not need to follow in the steps of other transit infrastructure in Toronto – that is, disconnecting neighborhoods further, and treating the new line as a necessary evil that needs to be separated as much as possible in a virtual tunnel. Rather, the rail link should be seen as a positive attribute that can re ‐ invigorate and increase our pedestrian and cycling networks, be a catalyst for the reconnection of historically separated neighbourhoods for Toronto residents, and ultimately become a new international gateway….
The UP Express has won the project of the year award at the Global AirRail Awards, given an industry magazine, AirRail News. The UP Express will, they say, be “a key component in the regional transportation plan developed by Metrolinx. The air rail link will provide an estimated 5,000 guests a day with convenient, reliable and rapid service between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson International Airport.”
Award-winning architects, however, were a little less fond of the project. Brown and Storey say that the noise walls being built as part of the project will “offer no collateral benefits for the city” according to a press release. The Junction Triangle Rail Committee published some rather shocking pictures of what they project the walls will do to a downtown park.
In other news, the Minister of Transportation maintained that the line would not be electrified in time for the PanAm games. He “said the Ontario Liberals would continue to support electrifying the Union Pearson Express (UP) air rail link… mentioning 2017 as a potential target date for completion”
Metrolinx has cut down 167 large trees along the Georgetown South corridor, and, though they are replacing them 3:1, residents south of here are upset, according to BlogTO.
I know, because I got a C+ in one forestry course, that the devil is in the details for things like this; replacing trees can be like comparing apple (trees) and orange (trees). Replacing large mixed hardwoods with three times the number of small pines is hardly reforesting.
Moreover, the trees will not be planted along the tracks:
planting of the replacement trees [will be] away from the rail corridor, though the location couldn’t be confirmed at publication time. The trees can’t be returned too close to the new tracks because safety rules require train drivers to have a clear view at all times.
Two houses on Fern were recently demolished as part of the ongoing rail construction.
Metrolinx’s plans to expropriate houses were very controversial when they were announced in 2010.
Only the footings of 29 and 32 Fern now remain.
Thanks to Chris for the tip.
April 13th: a worker scrapes mud off the roadway at a construction exit on Church Street.
One has to wonder if it’s arrogance, inexperience or plain old bloody-mindedness but Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray has decided that photo-ops are a much better way of advancing his career than dealing with Westonians’ outrage over mud traffic and noise generated by the Weston Tunnel construction. Back in January, two days before the recent Ontario Liberal leadership convention Mr Murray shrewdly traded his wafer-thin chances of becoming Premier to front-runner Kathleen Wynne in exchange for a cabinet position.
On Thursday, responding to resident’s concerns about Weston Tunnel noise, work schedules and mud tracked through the neighbourhood, MP Mike Sullivan requested to speak to the Minister by phone within 48 hours. Apparently Minister Murray is far too busy to come to the phone but through an assistant, generously promised to make contact if “the Minister’s schedule opens up for a call in the near future”. Sullivan placed a request to meet with Murray last February but has heard nothing to date. Even letters from fellow Liberal, MPP Laura Albanese and Toronto Councillor Frances Nunziata can’t get the Minister down from his high horse. We’ve all heard that power corrupts. However, Mr. Murray is merely Transportation Minister in a lame duck government that by tradition (with an unelected Premier) will have to go to the polls soon. Despite the probability that he’s about to join a number of his colleagues on the unemployment lines the Minister seems to think he has bigger fish to fry than deal with a bunch of complainers in Weston.
Soon we’ll have an election call. Minister Murray will become Candidate Murray, when no doubt his tone will become a lot more conciliatory. Glen Murray will be just fine regardless of the outcome. He doesn’t care that people in Weston are asking for help. There’s always an institute or community college that will employ him now that he’s quite well known. He’ll be able to add cabinet minister to the long list of jobs on his resumé – ka-ching.
No doubt the Premier will be horrified to hear that one of her ministers is ignoring the concerns of residents and their elected representatives. Use this link to direct your concerns to the Premier directly.
Post Script: April 13: Metrolinx has agreed to stick with the original construction schedule. According to MPP Laura Albanese and Councillor Frances Nunziata,
Metrolinx has listened to the community and has agreed to suspend the extended hours it had intended to put into place in the King St area. Work will continue from 7 am – 7 pm on weekdays and on Saturdays, as has been the case thus far. We have been informed that Metrolinx will be providing information to the community early next week and will survey residents on the options for moving forward.
A follow-up meeting with Metrolinx will be held in the next 2-3 weeks.
So, who knew that provincial agencies have some kind of ‘diplomatic immunity’ in the City of Toronto? Who knew that they only obey city bylaws as a courtesy? On that basis, presumably workers can safely ignore parking and other regulations in addition to cheerfully dispensing mud everywhere for Metrolinx.
Phrasing this as politely as possible; Horse Puckey!
Private companies are doing the work and as such they are surely required to obey the by-laws in the jurisdiction where they operate, no matter who employs them. How Ms Nunziata was fobbed off with the old ‘we can do what we like’ nonsense is beyond comprehension. Besides, Metrolinx doesn’t want or need any more negative publicity. Surely some sharp words and righteous indignation from the councillor could have brought them to heel regardless of who can do what and where.
A couple of weeks ago, The Fixer investigated the mud spread around Weston by the ongoing Georgetown construction. Metrolinx, it turns out, may be violating bylaws by not cleaning up after themselves.
Except that they’re not—because they don’t have to abide by the laws in the first place. In a letter to Mike Sullivan (and sent to me by his office), Frances Nunziata says “Metrolinx is a provincial agency and is not subject to municipal by-laws. They comply with our bylaws and permit requirements as a courtesy, but we have no legal means to make them comply. Metrolinx and City staff were at the site last week, and they have reported back that everything is in accordance with the by-law.”
The letter continues with a passage from Metrolinx:
While we have attempted to keep the roadway as clean as possible, there have been several snow and rain days that made the cleaning of streets very difficult…. The condition reported by the Fixer is a temporary one…. and we do not foresee any further problems for this year…. Overall the community has been tolerant of the construction work.
There you have the final word: they inspected themselves and there was no problem; the non-problem was temporary, and you’re a good person for not bringing it up again.