The federal government has given the green light to the controversial Canadian National intermodal logistics hub south of Milton. The $250 Million facility will allow the transfer of shipping containers from trains to trucks. It will encompass a switching yard with multiple tracks comprising 20 Kilometers of rail.The project had been strongly opposed by Milton town Council and the region of Halton along with citizen groups. In announcing his decision to allow the project to proceed, with conditions, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson acknowledged that the project will create “significant adverse environmental impacts,” but added the government “decided that the significant adverse environmental effects that the Designated Project is likely to cause are justified in the circumstances.”
The decision drew criticism from area municipal politicians who all opposed the facility. “How could the Federal Government disregard the concerns of the community and allow a project like this within one kilometer of approximately 34,000 current and future residents, including one hospital, 12 schools and two long-term care homes?” said Milton Mayor Gordon Krantz. “There are many unanswered questions that the federal government must address. This is not what residents of Milton deserve.”
“We have heard from members of our community, residents and local leaders about their collective concern regarding this project,” said Halton Regional Chair Gary Carr. “It is unconscionable that the Federal Government would approve this project despite findings from its own Federal Review Panel that the project will cause significant adverse effects on human and environmental health. There has never been a decision like this before.”
Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward agreed, saying “Halton residents deserve an explanation from the Federal Government about the project it has just approved, and the detrimental impact it will have on the health of residents.”
325 conditions were attached to the approval. The number of containers per day will be limited to about 1200. Abatement measures must be taken to reduce light pollution from construction and from operations. To control noise CN will be required to install vegetated berms around the project. There will be dust abatement requirements. Locomotives will have to be retrofitted to reduce greenhouse gases. The average daily number of trucks using the facility will be limited to 800 per day. Wetlands that will be disturbed as a result of the construction will have to be replaced by CN. There are also a number of mitigation requirements for fish habitat and wildlife that may be affected.
In his statement approving the project Wilkinson said, “The Milton Logistics Hub (the Project), proposed by the Canadian National Railway Company is expected to reduce overall regional emissions for certain pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions, by transitioning from trucks to lower-emitting train shipment. The Project will also contribute to a resilient economic recovery from COVID-19 by strengthening Canada’s supply chains, attracting investment, and boosting Canada’s trade potential by addressing bottlenecks in important corridors.” The project will divert some truck traffic from other CN sites closer to Toronto where the vehicles experience traffic congestion that results in GHG emissions. When CN started buying the land more than 20 years ago the site was several kilometers from the town centre, but Milton has undergone the most rapid growth of any Canadian city and now the town’s boundary has moved much closer to the logistics hub.
The full Minister’s decision can be found here.