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Active transportation advocates concerned about potential rail crossing closures

Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation is encouraging as many people as possible to complete a city survey on the crossings

With the future of five Guelph rail crossings under consideration, a local non-profit focused on active transportation is concerned some crossings may be closed impacting people's ability to walk and bike around the city. 

Spurred by the planned Metrolinx service expansion that will see two-way all-day GO train service from Kitchener to Toronto running through Guelph, the city is undertaking a transportation study to determine whether changes are needed at rail crossings to meet safety regulations and design standards.

Options being considered for each crossing include leaving them as-is, building an underpass or overpass, adding active transportation connections like footbridges or closing the crossing.

The public is encouraged to respond to a survey about how they use the crossings on the city's website by Nov. 30, and the non-profit Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation (GCAT) is urging as many people as possible to complete it. 

"We're trying to help the city get more comments so Metrolinx really has an idea of what's going on in these areas," said Mike Darmon, president of GCAT.

Darmon said he's concerned many people are unaware of the study and often, "people don't notice these things until they're actually closed and then it's too late."

The shuttering of the Dublin Street crossing last summer has, in some cases, doubled the distance residents have to walk to schools, businesses and the farmers' market in the area, said Darmon, 

"And if they close the next intersection, then you've got to go even further," he continued. "And there's that possibility."

Darmon said GCAT "absolutely" supports increased train service in Guelph, but believes it's possible to do that while maintain walking and cycling connections. 

"The more people send in comments, the more Metrolinx may pay attention," he said, drawing particular attention to the Alma Street crossing, which is a popular route to multiple schools and childcare.

Also as part of the study, the city is considering creating an active transportation connection, such a footbridge across the rail line at Cityview Drive. 

GCAT welcomes that possibility, but wants the city to look at installing something similar at Margaret Green Park to connect the West Willow Woods and Parkwood Gardens neighbourhoods.

"The Margaret Green situation, to me, is exactly the same situation as Cityview," said Darmon. "And it's also a bit of an equity issue, we have a lot of new immigrants living in that area too."

The findings of the city study, along with the recommended option for each rail crossing will be shared at virtual open house early in 2022.

The study will determine if decisions are required by city council, Metrolinx or both, said Jennifer Juste, the city's manager of transportation planning.

"While we are modelling the impacts of closures to local roads on the transportation network for our analysis, the city’s objective is to maintain connectivity of our local road network as best we can," Juste continued in an email.