CN plans new intermodal hub for Milton: 5 key questions

Representatives from Canadian National Railways met with the Milton, Ont., Chamber of Commerce Thursday to discuss plans for a new container terminal that has the mayor and some residents worried.

Railway says new container terminal is needed; residents worry about increased truck traffic

Rita Post told CBC News she's worried about the noise, dust and truck traffic that will be generated by a new terminal CN plans to build near her home in Milton. "There's not going to be any rest from this facility," she said. "It needs to be near a major highway on industrial land."

Canadian National Railway unveiled its plans Thursday to build a new container transfer terminal in Milton, Ont., where residents and the town's mayor are worried about increased truck traffic and other potential negative effects.

CN has proposed building a new intermodal terminal — a facility where containers are moved from trucks to trains and vice-versa — on land the railway owns at Britannia and Tremaine Roads. Milton, located about 50 kilometres west of Toronto, is one of Canada's fastest growing cities, and many residents are worried the industrial facility will bring increased truck traffic to the area and generally won't be a good fit. 

Here are five key questions about the proposal:

1. What is CN planning ? The 400-acre terminal will be built on a 1,000-acre site CN owns. Officials from the railway told CBC News the $250-million terminal is needed to meet a sharp rise in demand for intermodal traffic. A similar CN terminal in Brampton is near capacity, officials said. 

The proposed Milton terminal will see two trains a day and lead to a big increase in truck traffic on the roads around Milton. Exactly how many more trucks? Depends who you ask. CN says it will generate between 650 to 1,000 trucks a day; residents fear it will be more like 4,000 trucks daily. CN has posted a website that outlines what the company says are the benefits of the Milton project.

"There's already trucks on the road in the area," said CN's Sean Finn. "We won't have trucks going through residential areas." CN says the terminal will bring 1,000 "direct and indirect jobs" to Milton and the Halton region. 

2. Why are town officials concerned? Mayor Gordon Krantz, now in his 35th year in office, said the plan runs counter to the town's plans for the area. "It's just contrary to all the planning that we've put into place over the last number of years," he told CBC News.

Krantz is worried about wear and tear on local roads and the loss of tax revenue that could come through other developments on the site. He's hoping the railway will take the town's concerns into consideration while following the federal approval process (see below).

3. What is the approval process? That's part of the rub for residents and town officials of Milton. CN owns the land and railways are federally regulated. Civic officials can't stop the terminal from being built, even if they don't like it. The project is submitted to a federal environmental approval process and CN officials say they plan to present detailed plans to residents and work with them to address concerns.

Krantz hopes CN doesn't decide to simply use "the big stick" granted to it by federal jurisdiction and ignore input from the town. 

4. What about residents? Rita Post, who's lived in the area for more than 30 years, is worried about dust, noise, light pollution and traffic the site will generate as it operates around the clock. "There's not going to be any rest from this facility," she told CBC News. She'd rather see the terminal located closer to a major highway.

Post is also dismayed with the lack of power the community has over the project. "Railways should not be given the power they have," she told CBC News. "They can come in and do anything they want."

5. What's next? CN presented its plans to Milton's Chamber of Commerce at a Thursday morning meeting. The company says they will ensure the project complies with a review done by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

Federal Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt and Milton Mayor Gordon Kratz listen to a presentation by Canadian National officials about a new container terminal the railway wants to build in the town. (Annie Poulin/CBC)

MP Lisa Raitt attended Thursday's meeting. Raitt is the federal transportation minister and Milton is in her Halton riding. 

Raitt told CBC News on Thursday that she doesn't have an official role in the approval process for the project. 

"I will monitor and watch and see what's going on," she said. "This is a very long process. There's no decision point I see in the near future."


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