By ERIC ATKINS
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Canadian National Railway Co.'s plan for a $250-million container terminal on 400 acres west of Toronto is facing fierce opposition from the region's politicians and residents.
The Milton, Ont., train-and-truck terminal, first proposed by CN in 2015, is a key part of the railway's strategy to expand its ability to handle rising volumes of container traffic carrying consumer goods destined for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.
But four area mayors and the chairman of the region told reporters on Wednesday that the noise and roadway congestion caused by the 800 daily trucks that will enter the aroundthe-clock facility will be bad for residents' health and safety and cause environmental damage.
Gary Carr, chairman of Halton Region, which includes the towns west of Toronto's suburbs, said there are 34,000 residents, 12 schools and several hospitals within one kilometre of the proposed rail yard. He said federal approval of the project would undo 20 years of planning for residential and commercial zoning in the area and limit economic growth. The 130 expected jobs on the site falls short of the region's official plan for 1,500, Mr. Carr said.
"We do the planning in this region for various things and that's how we work. We're not about to be told that we can't do it when it comes to CN intermodal," Mr. Carr said.
CN's land parcel is 1,200 acres and there are fears the project could double in size in the future.
"Traffic will continue to increase as the site's capacity [grows]," said Gordon Krantz, mayor of Milton.
In 2016, CN applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency for approval of the project, which is also the subject of a federal review jointly held by the federal environmental and transportation departments. That three-person review panel began its month-long hearing on the plan on Wednesday, with testimony from CN representatives and area residents at a hotel in Milton.
CN is a federally regulated railway and approval of the project rests with the government. A CN spokesman declined to comment on the approval process.
Gilles Paquette, who lives near the proposed project, said the number of trucks and the routes they will travel will create safety hazards.
"We have a lot of cyclists in town. We have a lot of schools," Mr. Paquette told the panel on Wednesday.
A CN representative told the panel that the company will direct its own trucks to take a nearby highway to alleviate local traffic, and does not expect the rail yard operations to have a great impact on local roads.
Montreal-based CN operates a rail network that reaches the East and West coasts and travels south to the Gulf of Mexico. The Milton hub would relieve some congestion at the company's nearby container yard in Brampton, Ont., which is at capacity. The shipping boxes, which can be carried by ship, train and truck, are the main containers by which Asian goods - everything from T-shirts to televisions - enter the North American market.
The intermodal container business is CN's biggest by sales, accounting for about a quarter of CN's $13.5-billion revenue in 2018.
Half of CN's container traffic is destined for Toronto, Hamilton and the surrounding regions, including Milton. The Milton hub, adjacent to CN's main line, will include sufficient tracks to handle all rail traffic and a 1.7-kilometre access road that will avoid truck lineups on public roads, CN has said.
A CN Rail train is pictured in Guelph, Ont. Half of CN's container traffic is destined for Toronto, Hamilton and the surrounding regions.
STEPHEN C. HOST/THE CANADIAN PRESS