Many of you have taken the time to contact me over the phone, via e-mail, in the community, or at the various public meetings held to share your thoughts and concerns with Metrolinx's proposed Davenport Community Rail Overpass project. From the very start, I have shared your concerns and have worked with local residents' groups, elected representatives, City staff, and Metrolinx to advocate for our community. This included the two motions that I successfully moved at City Council which ensured that City staff got involved in the assessment of this project and to request that Metrolinx delay their timeline in order to provide for expert and community feedback.
I am now pleased to let you know that our City's Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat has just sent me a memorandum with the following information on the Metrolinx Davenport Grade Separation Project:
- One of the biggest challenges since this project was introduced to the City and community in Spring of this year has been the lack of time available to consider the implications of the current proposal, including the internal background work that has led Metrolinx to the Elevated Option now under consideration. The reason time is needed now is because this is the "preliminary planning" stage in which significant concerns are addressed. Once the project advances to the Notice of Commencement for the Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP), this legislated process provides little opportunity for significant input or to effect change. TPAP is essentially the final review period for the project.
- Based on the information that City staff have been able to review in the preliminary planning stage, City staff are not convinced that the Elevated Option, and its range of proposed mitigation, presents the best solution for the residents and businesses of this community and the City. Significant concerns remain.
- In recent days, discussions between senior City and Metrolinx officials have led to a commitment from Metrolinx to delay issuing Notice of Commencement for the TPAP until the Spring of 2016, in order to provide more time for community and City input to an appropriate solution. This is a significant step forward, and will provide the time necessary to table all of the information needed for informed decision making on the range of viable solutions, in order to advance the RER program on the Barrie corridor in a manner that is most conducive to rail operations and the residents and businesses of the Davenport area.
- As a result, the Chief Planner will not be advancing a report to Planning and Growth Management Committee. Instead, the City will continue the much needed due diligence review of the full range of potential solutions with the community, elected officials, and Metrolinx.
- The success of this project will require community input leading to solutions that address the City-building objectives for this area, as well as applicable Provincial policy. With this in mind, the City will be requesting Metrolinx form a team of Metrolinx/City/TTC staff with a mandate to develop a decision-making framework for this project that can be finalized with community input. The framework will then be applied by this team in a collaborative public process with the community and stakeholders over the winter months, to confirm the appropriate solution for this project.
- The City continues to support the Province of Ontario's overall commitment to transit expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). The Regional Express Rail initiative is a bold plan for regional transit expansion, but it can also present significant City building challenges where major infrastructure incursions, such as the Davenport rail grade separation, impact established communities. Given these tensions and the importance of "getting it right", the City is fully committed to working with the local Councillor and other elected officials, the community and Metrolinx, to define a solution that meets the needs of our community, the City and transit expansion.
As your City Councillor, I would like to thank the many residents who engaged with me on this issue and I would like thank City staff for the work that they have done to date in assessing Metrolinx's proposed Davenport Community Rail Overpass project. As I said back in May, "I want us as a community to have the arguments and information to make a sensible decision for our area…the overpass will have an impact on our community for the next hundred years." I look forward to continue to work with you, local residents' groups, elected representatives, City staff, and Metrolinx to advocate for our community and to ensure that our community receives the best possible outcome from this proposed project. Our community deserves no less.
Ward 18, Davenport