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LETTER: Metrolinx plans a threat to Guelph neighbourhoods

Letter writer Susan Watson has concerns about what Metrolinx plans to electrify the rail lines in the area will have on city neighbourhoods
Letter to the Editor

Metrolinx has come to Guelph, and if you don’t want to suddenly find yourself in a radically different city it’s critical that you make your voice heard in their “Virtual Open House” and to your City Councillors.

Metrolinx wants to electrify 54 kms of track, a section of which runs through Guelph.  They also want to shave time off their train schedules by permanently closing crossings to cars and pedestrians.  How will these advances impact our community?

If Metrolinx gets its way in Guelph, Dublin Street, Glasgow Street, Yorkshire Street and Alma Street could all be permanently closed at the tracks.  Downtown neighbourhoods will be severed in half by their chain link fences.  Our Active Transportation plans will go into the shredder.

Imagine this as a future scenario in Guelph: multiple rail crossings are closed and the only roadway to travel north and south across the tracks between Gordon St. and the Hanlon is Edinburgh. But that route is blocked because the trains are shunting at Paisley and traffic is extensively backed-up. Walking and biking routes for students, citizens and workers are now cut off.  Take the car! It will be faster and easier.

Sounds far-fetched?  Dublin Street, a more than 150-year-old thoroughfare in our City, was permanently closed on July 6.  No community consultation or public debate took place before it was a done deal.  It never even made the agenda of the Committee of the Whole or Council.  Mayor Guthrie and senior staff decided it would go straight from a staff “Information Report” to rubber-stamping of the required By-laws on March 23rd, 2020 – a Covid-19 Emergency Council meeting where no citizen delegations were allowed.  The Council vote to enact the enabling By-laws was unanimous.  The Accessibility Advisory Committee wasn’t even on the list of “consultations”, so it’s not clear how compliance was achieved with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.  Metrolinx’ own study had recommended at least keeping Dublin open to bikes and pedestrians, but that didn’t happen.

One down.  Three to go. 

Metrolinx has been poking around in our community and communicating with the City since at least the fall of 2018 when they conducted a Traffic Study on the Dublin Street crossing.   They have an abysmal record when it comes to working with communities.  In January of 2019, they made a play to close Bathurst  Street in Toronto for seven months – with zero public consultation! 

On July 27, the Toronto Star published a column about how Metrolinx shafted residents in Jane-Finch by bailing on a long-standing promise to provide land for a community centre:

It seems like Metrolinx is electrifying our community in more ways than one. They want to put a Traction Power Station on a parcel of land they identify as “vacant”.  But Ward 4 residents are legitimately upset. That same “vacant land” is Margaret Greene Park.

Where are City Staff and Council in the midst of all this? With a few notable exceptions, most of them seem to be asleep at the switch (to borrow a railway term).  On the Dublin Street closure file, it seems they just rolled over and played handmaiden to Metrolinx.  We have a Community Engagement Framework. If Metrolinx wasn’t consulting and informing the public, then the City should have activated its own policy.  It’s time to tell staff and Council to do their jobs and represent our interests on this file. 

Metrolinx’ virtual town hall is live now and running until August 12.  Feedback received by the deadline will be included in the final Environmental Project Report. Find the open house here, or email your comments to KWGOexpansion@metrolinx.com.

If we don’t want to get “railroaded” by Metrolinx, now is the time to engage.



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