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Concerns heard at GO Transit open house

by Brent Davis

Ask many people, even those living near a planned train storage yard in central Kitchener, about GO Transit’s expansion to this area, and you’ll hear a similar response.

It’s about time.

But concerns about noise, fumes and vibration still swirl around the facility where two trains will be parked overnight when the service to Toronto begins late next year.

GO insists it’s a temporary site, until a larger facility for up to eight trains is built near Baden. But that could take a few years, company officials say, as ridership grows and funding becomes available.

GO Transit hosted an open house Thursday night in an attempt to assuage those concerns. More than 50 people attended.

“How much of a property value hit am I going to take in the short term if I want to move?” asked Dave Gosnell, who lives near the location between Park and King streets.

GO Transit says noise from the locomotives as they idle for an hour in the evenings and mornings could reach 53 decibels, in a worst-case scenario with all equipment running at once. That’s just below the readings for a normal conversation, and just within provincial guidelines for residential impacts at 55 decibels.

But in the summertime, when the windows are open at the Gosnell home, he said that wouldn’t be all that welcome.

“It’s somebody having a conversation next to your bedroom window,” he said. “It’s going to wake you up.”

Leslie Toth, another nearby resident, said he wondered whether diesel fumes would linger near the ground, especially on low-pressure days.

“I don’t want to smell that,” he said. “I have a garden. I enjoy my own vegetables.”

GO predicts air quality and odour impacts will be low and that vibration will be a non-issue.

Toth asked why GO had settled on such a central location, when others were considered in less-populated areas near Bingemans or Ardelt Place.

“There is more room further down the track,” he said.

GO ruled out other locations, citing such concerns as property size, track geometry and environmental concerns.

“I don’t think anyone opposes GO coming in,” said newly-elected Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington. “They just want some answers.”

He’s been most critical about the lack of communication with local residents when the plans first came to light last month. “I think if they’d done this kind of communication up front, they wouldn’t be in here doing this.”

Tim Mollison lives nearby, and he’s also a member of the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group.

“These residents can either continue to be surrounded by more and more asphalt, more and more parking, to suit our car culture, or we can put in the infrastructure we need to,” he said. “This is part of the solution. This is the first step. Sometimes the first step is the hardest one to take.”

GO’s manager of infrastructure environmental assessment, Greg Ashbee, said the open house was an opportunity to demonstrate that the layover facility will not be a burden to the community.

“Obviously we’re excited about bringing service to Kitchener,” he said. “We definitely want to be a good neighbour.”