East York Mirror
A controversial air rail link connecting Union Station to Pearson Airport could have been electrified in time for 2015, an official for Metrolinx has confirmed.
But Karen Pitre said that won't happen as the Georgetown rail corridor is still dependent on an ongoing environmental assessment as well as a funding guarantee from the provincial government.
The EA is expected to be completed by 2014. If after that electrification on the Georgetown line is approved, and funded, conversion from diesel would take three years to complete.
Pitre, director of electrification for the provincial transit planning agency, was part of a contingent of Metrolinx officials presenting an update to residents at the Lithuanian House on Bloor Street West on Wednesday, June 27, evening.
"If we have an approved EA and funding, electrification can be done, said Pitre. "We don't have either at this moment."
The current plan when the link is completed would result in three times the number of GO diesel trains already running through the corridor. That's a major source of concern for resident Tony Laviola, who worries about increased exposure to carcinogens.
"We're going to wind up with all kinds of health problems related to diesel," said Laviola. "It's a bad decision for the people, and especially the children, who live in the corridor."
At the meeting, Metrolinx presented a 25-minute update on the electrification study it is devising with the assistance of an internationally renowned consulting company which has implemented electric rail across the world.
But the audience of around 70 people filling up nearly every seat inside the Lithuanian House, demonstrated restlessness while Kevin Gore from Parsons Brinckerhoff reviewed highly technical aspects of the study.
"We're not interested in hearing how the screws go in on a train," said MPP Jonah Schein to sustained applause.
Federal MPs Peggy Nash and Andrew Cash were also in attendance.
Schein, NDP member for Davenport, said he would introduce at private member's motion at Queen's Park in support of electrification of the air rail link in September.
Scott Dobson, who lives in the Junction Triangle, said the revelation from Metrolinx electrification could be completed in time for the Pam Am Games meant the province was out of excuses.
"We've been meeting in this room for five years now," said Dobson. "One thing after another has been proven wrong."
Dobson, who is involved with several local community groups, said he sympathized with Metrolinx's role as messenger for the provincial government.
"They're in an uncomfortable position of having to follow a politically driven agenda," he said.
Cash, who represents Davenport federally as a member of the NDP, said the public meeting organized by Metrolinx was a "snow job", which seemed to present important details about electrification but in actuality intended to deflect crucial questions residents want answered.
"The process of public consultation is used by government to hide behind details," said Cash. "They're flooding us with the minutiae of information but they can't really tell us anything new."
Rick Ciccarelli from the Clean Train Coalition praised those at the meeting for their restraint during the meeting, which was heated at times.
He said Metrolinx should expect some anger from residents.
"There's a difference between hostility and honest anger," said Ciccarelli, co-chair for CTC. "People get honestly angry when they see the way that this has played itself out."
Additional public meetings are required before the completion of the EA and Pitre said she expects to hear more feedback from concerned residents.
"I think there's a lot of anxiety about what's coming, so I respect their opinions," she said.