Noise wall debate getting loud

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.

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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.

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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….

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Conservatives catch Wynned of ARL waste

The Conservative critic of the Pan Am Games, Rod Jackson, put out a press release yesterday tearing into the mismanagement of the UP Express.

Your humble correspondent rarely includes press releases in their entirety, but this is a doozy:

The Union-Pearson Air-Rail Link was designed to be a legacy project which would make travel to Pearson airport cheaper and easier. Instead, its mismanagement by the provincial Liberal government will leave it standing as a legacy to McGuinty-Wynne waste.

“The ARL has been rushed by this government and it has cost Ontarians hundreds of millions in wasted dollars,” said MPP Rod Jackson. “Metrolinx officials have even confirmed that the ARL could have been electrified in time for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Instead, they’re spending taxpayer’s money twice.”

Estimates suggest that converting rail lines from diesel to electric would take around three years to complete, provided an environmental assessment was in place. Metrolinx currently plans to electrify the ARL by 2017, starting the electrification process in 2015 after the Pan Am Games.

“The Games were awarded in 2009. If electrifying the rail line was a 3-year process, this Liberal government could have easily electrified the line in time for the Pan Am Games, saving themselves from having to spend money on diesel in the first place.”

“This McGuinty-Wynne government clearly stands for two things: red tape and waste. The ARL is a perfect representation of that Liberal ethos.”

“First, red tape turned a 3-year retrofit into an 8-year retrofit. Second, that red tape led directly to the waste of up to $456-million being needlessly spent on the ARL prior to electrification costs in millions.”

“Premier Wynne has demonstrated that she will continue in the footsteps of her predecessor Dalton McGuinty by showing a lack of responsibility in handling the public purse,” concluded Jackson.

 

Carrying Place plaque unveiled.

Alongside the busy traffic on Weston Road, a ceremony was held by the Weston Historical Society (WHS) Saturday to dedicate a plaque commemorating the European discovery of the Carrying Place Trail. The plaque, a brainchild of WHS, was partly funded by a grant of $1000 from Metrolinx.

The trail was a route that followed the eastern banks of the Humber River used by Aboriginal people between Toronto and Lake Simcoe. The plaque, on the corner of Weston Road and Little Avenue is right on the original trail and commemorates Weston’s place on the trail as well as the countless generations of Aboriginal people who lived here before being displaced by European settlement. Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations along with Carolyn King, co-chair of the New Credit First Nations Cultural Committee led a traditional Aboriginal blessing with smudging and drumming and later spoke about the history of the natives who lived in the area.

Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations leads a traditional Aboriginal blessing with smudging and drumming.
Elder Garry Sault of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations.

Mary Louise Ashborne spoke of the vast amounts of wildlife that populated the area until made extinct (e.g. passenger pigeon) or decimated by hunting or pollution (e.g. Atlantic salmon). Several Weston VIPs were in attendance – almost outnumbering the public who chose to attend.

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L to R, facing camera, Councillor Frances Nunziata, BIA Chair Masum Hossain, Suri Weinberg-Linsky, Weston Historical Society President, Mary Louise Ashborne, MPP Laura Albanese, MP Mike Sullivan.
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L to R, Humber River Guardian Madeleine McDowell, Cherri Hurst (WHS), Carolyn King, Elder Garry Sault.

Mike Sullivan spoke about his private-members bill to restore protection to the Humber, designated a Heritage River in 1999. He is concerned that oil pipelines that cross the Humber may more easily spill their contents into the river thanks to recent federal legislation that loosened environmental protection for the river.

The unveiling was followed by a Jane’s Walk hosted by the WHS, south along the Humber pointing out places of historical interest along the way.

UP Express wins award, raspberries

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.

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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 not replacing trees on corridor, catching heat

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.

Residents to get input into Kodak lands after all

Metrolinx, according to the The Star, is backtracking and allowing residents some input into what will happen at the derelict Kodak lands, which are to be turned into a rail yard:

Metrolinx has agreed to open debate on the fate of the former Kodak manufacturing site just months before the provincial agency tenders a multibillion-dollar contract to build a storage facility for the Crosstown LRT there.

It’s a major turnaround for Metrolinx, which has previously resisted requests by community activists to intensify development on the 23-hectare brownfield at Eglinton Ave. W. and Black Creek Dr., and include multi-storey commercial buildings that could lead to local jobs.