Metrolinx requesting access to local properties for GO line expansion studies

ROCKWOOD – A Metrolinx plan for a second set of train tracks in the Kitchener GO Transit corridor has Guelph-Eramosa council and local landowners looking for more information before they grant consent for preliminary studies.

Metrolinx is currently asking permission to access private and public properties to conduct a series of environmental and geotechnical studies in preparation for the project.

At the end of September a consultant from CanAcre, hired by Metrolinx, asked Rockwood resident Stephanie De Grandis to sign an agreement giving the company access to her property on the 7th Line.

“I was really surprised when she came down my lane. My first look at [the agreement] was, ‘My God, this is egregious.’ And so I just said, ‘I’m not signing, I don’t know a thing about this,’” said De Grandis.

The owner of 210 acres, De Grandis operates farm businesses Walnut Hill Tree and Critter Farm Inc.

Tracks for the existing Kitchener line that Metrolinx is looking to double already cut through De Grandis’ property. That has been the  case since her parents first purchased the land.

Part of the agreement outlines that Metrolinx and other “authorized users” would provide 48 hours notice to residents before entering the property. It also stipulates owners are required to “remove all vehicles, equipment and other items from the property” to allow for unobstructed access.

“I have 120 cattle roaming on either side of the tracks that they’re studying,” said De Grandis.

“I basically said, ‘You’re going and making me do all this work for your studies … (so) at least I should be [paid].’”

While the agreement provides some indication of the work to be undertaken for the geotechnical and environmental studies, De Grandis said “there has to be much more detail,” before she would consider signing.

De Grandis also said she took issue with Guelph-Eramosa council for not making residents aware of Metrolinx’s plan ahead of time.

“My problem here with the whole situation is that I was not informed at all about this by the council, by our township or the county,” she said.

However, Mayor Chris White told the Advertiser council was also given an agreement to sign by Metrolinx only at the end of September. He said the township was not notified in advance that Metrolinx would be approaching landowners and seeking access.

Metrolinx has been asked to attend a council meeting to provide an update on project plans.

The previous provincial government had a vision of running high-speed electric trains from Toronto to Kitchener, which would require not only a second track, but also new hydro tower infrastructure that would necessitate the clearing of many trees, he said.

“We’d have these high speed trains flying through Rockwood and our township all day,” said White. “We want to know, is the high speed gone?”

If the long-term construction project proceeds, issues could include property acquisition, reconstruction of crossings or bridges and the volume and nature of train traffic.

White said that while increased GO train capacity is generally beneficial, council must consider the impact on residents. Rockwood has GO bus service, but residents must travel to Acton or Guelph to access GO trains.“This is absolutely massive. There could be a lot more trains coming through our community,” said White.

“If you’re trying to move people from Toronto to Kitchener, you can’t ignore us in between, and the impacts are direct upon us …”

White said Metrolinx had raised the possibility of closing down some road crossing points for the high speed trains, but Guelph-Eramosa is opposed to such closures because they would restrict essential traffic such as school buses, emergency vehicles and farm equipment.

“They came to council a couple of years ago, and said nothing is really moving because they have to solve the freight issue,” said White. “It seems to have shifted, where it looks like they might be going for a doubling of the track so they can enhance GO service.”

He said recent changes to the freight schedule on the existing line have resulted in more CN trains coming through in the middle of the night and waking people up with their whistles.

By press time Metrolinx had not responded to the Advertiser’s request for comment.