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‘Railroading’ a town: The people of Milton versus CN Rail
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A 20-year fight between CN Rail and the people of Milton, Ont., is about to reach its last stop, and Rita Vogel Post is exhausted. “But we haven’t given up,” she says.
CN began quietly buying up property in Milton through numbered companies more than two decades ago, and in 2000, it announced plans to build what’s called an intermodal terminal — essentially a transfer station where trucks unload and pick up containers with goods bound for the rapidly growing Greater Toronto Area.
“Truthfully, we had no clue what an intermodal terminal is,” Vogel Post says.
But the more she learned, the more worried she got.
CN bills the project as an economic and environmental benefit for the region, reasoning that moving hundreds of containers at a time by rail reduces emissions by getting long haul transport trucks off the road.
That’s true, but most intermodal facilities are built in industrial areas, because while they provide an overall environmental benefit, anyone who lives in the immediate area could be exposed to a wide range of health concerns, including dust, noise and light pollution, as well as carcinogenic diesel exhaust. The Milton project would bring 1,600 truck trips per day, going in and out of the terminal, 365 days a year.
That’s why Vogel Post decided to mount a campaign to fight the project. The graphic designer created pamphlets and spoke at community meetings in opposition to the project.
“It’s a class three industrial facility, you know, the highest emissions of noise, light dust, and particulates. It does not belong beside residents.”
It’s a big concern for Priscilla and Jeff Berton, and their two young children. Their five-year-old son Sebastian suffers from asthma.
“I don’t want to be breathing that in and I don’t want my kids breathing it in,” Priscilla says.
“I feel like they’re putting their company’s interests ahead of our health and the good of our town.”
The Bertons say those health risks contributed to their decision to sell their house and move across town. And there are thousands of residents, a dozen schools, and a hospital located within a kilometre of the proposed site.
Priscilla and Jeff Berton moved to Milton to be closer to nature, now they worry the pro-posed CN terminal might impact their children’s health. Global News
Opposition to the project is widespread, both among residents and politicians in the area. But that may not matter. Since the time of Confederation, when railroads were key to connecting the country, oversight has rested exclusively with the federal government, which means CN doesn’t need approval from local governments.
“People have the right to be concerned about what those emissions, those diesel emissions, can do,” says Greg Gormick, a transportation analyst and former CN intermodal expert.
This article first appeared on globalnews.ca
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