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Sylbert Thomas, who’s lived on Brownville Avenue for the past four years, welcomes Mr. Tory’s SmartTrack – if it’s underground. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Sylbert Thomas, who’s lived on Brownville Avenue for the past four years, welcomes Mr. Tory’s SmartTrack – if it’s underground. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto residents fear footprint of Tory’s SmartTrack rail system Add to ...

Each time a train rumbles by on the tracks behind Sean Whalen’s Mount Dennis home, he says the vibrations shake his entire house.

“The upstairs of the house actually rocks and rolls,” said Mr. Whalen, who lives on Brownville Avenue. “These homes are over 100 years old.”

With another railway track in the area, as proposed by mayoral candidate John Tory, Mr. Whalen said, “I can see these houses being toast.”

Mr. Whalen isn’t alone in his concern. Residents of the Toronto neighbourhood near Eglinton Avenue and Weston Road are demanding answers from Mr. Tory to explain how he plans to lay down a train track on Eglinton Avenue through their community.

Marabelle McTavish, president of the Mount Dennis Community Association, released a statement Thursday calling on Mr. Tory to clarify what parts of the neighbourhood may be affected or possibly demolished to make way for his SmartTrack rail system, which extends 12 kilometres west on Eglinton Avenue from the existing GO Transit lines at Mount Dennis all the way to Mississauga.

“If it’s all been planned out down to the actual costing, then the Mount Dennis community wants to know the details,” Ms. McTavish said in a statement released Thursday. “If a heavy rail line will be going down the centre of Eglinton Avenue, dividing this community and tying up traffic for years, then this community deserves to be consulted.”

Mr. Tory said during a visit to The Globe and Mail editorial board Wednesday he wouldn’t demolish local homes, but left the door open for going “below or around obstacles.”

“He says homes are not going to be bulldozed but does that mean it’s going to go underground, and what’s that going to look like? It’s not clear to me,” Ms. McTavish said in a phone interview.

Amanda Galbraith, spokesperson for Mr. Tory’s campaign, said in an e-mail Thursday evening, “John spoke to the president of the community association tonight and assured her there would be no removal of existing homes or other structures in the community.”

“We have always maintained a section of SmartTrack will require engineering such as cut and cover or tunnelling,” Ms. Galbraith said. “This is standard all over the world, and we would point out Toronto is tunnelling right now on Eglinton Avenue to build the Eglinton Crosstown LRT.”

She added Mr. Tory plans to meet with the association.

Jules-José Kerlinger, vice-president of the community association, said Mr. Tory did speak to them about wanting to set up a meeting, which Mr. Kerlinger hopes will take place soon.

“We haven’t received any reassurances or anything,” he said. “At some point it seems like John Tory will meet with us – I’m not sure when – to talk about it, maybe clarify what exactly his plan is because at the moment it does lack a little bit of detail.”

If the SmartTrack route makes the sharp turn onto Eglinton Avenue from the train tracks – as suggested by Olivia Chow, who is running against Mr. Tory for mayor – residents most likely to be affected are those on Brownville Avenue at Eglinton, a spot that also houses a daycare centre and is around the corner from the Mount Dennis library.

Rumbling and whistling from freight trains periodically punctuated an otherwise quiet weekday morning on the street. But Maria Rego, who lives near the intersection, said she would probably welcome a new transit option in the neighbourhood despite the additional noise, as long as fares are similar to TTC prices.

“It’s not going to make any difference. There’s already vibrations in these houses,” she said, adding she’s often jarred awake in the middle of the night to feel her house shaking as a train goes by. “I don’t own my house so I guess in a little while I could move out if there’s any problems.

“The city’s growing so obviously they’re going to need to do something about the transportation,” she said.

Sylbert Thomas, another area resident, said he supports Mr. Tory’s plan for trains on Eglinton Avenue if they’re buried underground.

“We have to learn to use our country in the best way for the future generation,” he said, insisting Toronto should follow the lead of cities like London and build a network of underground transit. “It would be beautiful having a subway underneath.”

Mr. Thomas, a Rob and Doug Ford supporter, said he hasn’t yet checked what transit plans each of the mayoral candidates are proposing.

“But I hope they do their homework because they are there to do the best for us, hopefully” he said.

Ms. Chow said in a statement released Thursday in response to the Mount Dennis Community Association’s demands for details regarding the SmartTrack that she tried to ask many of the same questions at a candidates’ debate in Mount Dennis last month.

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