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Weston worries it's the end of the line

Community fears streets will close


When Mary Louise Ashbourne first heard of a high-speed rail link between Union Station and Pearson airport, she thought it was a marvellous idea.

But now she’s worried the proposed service will not just cut through the heart of Weston but kill it altogether. The community activist fears the area — near Weston Rd., north of Lawrence Ave. W. — will be divided in two because some east-west roads that now cross the railway tracks may have to be closed for safety reasons.

“I can just see Weston withering and all the services we have just drying up,” Ashbourne said.

She said turning three of the area’s streets into glorified cul-de-sacs will mean cutting off children from their schools, parishioners from their churches, businesses from their customers.

“Weston Rd. will become an absolute nightmare for traffic, and if there’s ever a disaster where they have to evacuate people … it would be nightmare city simply because there are no exits.”

Ashbourne is rounding up support in her community for public hearings this week into an ongoing environmental assessment, which is studying what is needed to accommodate the rail link and improve service on GO Transit’s Georgetown corridor.

In late 2003, the federal government awarded Union Pearson Group, a division of SNC Lavalin, the right to build a high-speed privately run rail service between Union and Pearson, making one other stop at the TTC’s Dundas West station.

The intent is to market the service to business travellers needing to get to and from downtown quickly with a one-way trip of 22 minutes.

But an increase in the number of trains on the corridor raises safety issues, said Imants Hausmanis, GO Transit’s manager for the project.

In order to comply with Transport Canada regulations, the “level crossings” where rail and road intersect must be eliminated, Hausmanis said.

‘The community is beside itself. To kill an old community is just unconscionable’

Activist Mary Louise Ashbourne

Ideas on the table include the relatively expensive construction of tunnels or bridges for roads and rail, or the reasonably inexpensive option of simply closing off local streets that currently cross the tracks.

“Part of this study is going to consider each one of the roadways and assess what may be the best solution. Those are the things that are on the table,” Hausmanis said. “We have no preconceived opinions of what we should do.”

Councillor Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) said she’d fight for tunnelling or bridging to keep the roads open. “I think there’s a lot of discussion that still has to be done.”

Ashbourne and her vocal neighbours have gotten their way before: winning the right for Weston’s John, King and Church Sts. to keep their names, even though streets in downtown Toronto have the same monikers.

Those streets could potentially be severed by the new rail line.

The environmental assessment, co-funded by Ottawa and Queen’s Park, is set to end in September. It’s expected to cost $45 million to design and construct the necessary upgrades on the Georgetown corridor, money that GO Transit has been promised by both levels of government. The privately owned and operated Blue-22 Union-Pearson rail service is supposed to open in 2008.

The public meetings are scheduled for:

  • Tomorrow, 6-9 p.m. at the Trinity Community Recreation Centre, 155 Crawford St.

  • Wednesday, 6:30-9 p.m. at the Bethel Apostolic Church, 1831 Weston Rd.

  • Thursday, 6-9 p.m. at the Malton Community Centre, 3540 Morning Star Dr., Mississauga.

“The community is beside itself,” Ashbourne said. “To kill an old community is just unconscionable.”