GO Transit in breach of its obligation to cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable

The Canadian Transportation Agency finds that GO Transit is in breach of its obligation under section 95.1 of the Canada Transportation Act to cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable, in relation to GO Transit's pile-driving activities at the West Toronto Diamond.

October 8, 2009

The Canadian Transportation Agency finds that GO Transit is in breach of its obligation under section 95.1 of the Canada Transportation Act to cause only such noise and vibration as is reasonable, in relation to GO Transit's pile-driving activities at the West Toronto Diamond. The Agency found that, in the circumstances, the prolonged exposure of the local citizens to the noise and vibration generated at that location is unreasonable.

This follows a complaint filed by the West Toronto Diamond Community Group against GO Transit for noise and vibration resulting from the construction of the West Toronto Diamond Grade Separation Project.

The Agency recognizes that GO Transit may have operational requirements for this construction project in order to improve efficiency and expand commuter rail services in the Greater Toronto Area.  However, the Agency must balance the necessary work against the interests of the people in the local community who are being exposed to noise and vibration from the project.

The Agency finds that the prolonged exposure to the local citizens to the noise and vibration generated from the pile-driving activities is unreasonable given the nature of the area in which the construction is taking place and the failure of GO Transit to implement sufficient measures to reduce the noise and vibration.

Before making a final determination and ordering any changes to the project, the Agency is providing GO Transit with the opportunity to comment on the Agency's proposed measures related to the noise and vibration. The Agency has issued a show cause giving GO Transit 14 days from October 8, 2009 to provide detailed evidence as to why the transit company should not be required to implement the proposed measures. Once received, the West Toronto Diamond Community Group and the City of Toronto will have an additional five days to submit final comments on GO Transit's submission. The Agency will then assess the information and make its final determination.

The Agency's proposed measures are:

  1. Vibratory hammer:
    Use a vibratory hammer to completely install the piles by modifying the hammer's frequency settings and, where this is not possible, drive the piles to the maximum depth possible considering soil conditions and then finish the pile-driving with an impact hammer.
  2. Giken hammer:
    Extend the use of the Giken hammer in conjunction with vibratory hammer use, as discussed in the Decision, for the entire length of pile-driving activities and not just until the scheduled 250 piles are installed, especially in the more sensitive areas.
  3. Impact hammer and related mitigative measures:
    1. Use an impact-vibration hammer which switches automatically from one mode to another depending on soil resistance. Alternatively, use the impact hammer on the project only in conjunction with a vibratory or Giken hammer and only where it has been demonstrated that no other method is technically or commercially feasible;
    2. De-power the impact hammer and decrease the hammer energy wherever possible and use shrouds, skirts and rubberized chasers. Any opening in the shroud should always be positioned down the tracks and not toward any residential area;
    3. Employ moveable noise barriers to deflect noise away from nearby residential areas by moving them to current pile-driving locations and by setting them up around the shrouds to deflect noise from the fourth, open side of the shroud.
  4. Limited hours for pile-driving activities:
    1. Restrict the hours of work for installing piles to 40 hours per week from between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays;
    2. Negotiate an agreement with the City of Toronto to allow for road closures during the weekday hours to complete the required work at that location between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays;
    3. Negotiate agreements with other railway companies to allow for train blocks during the weekday hours to complete the required work at that location between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.
  5. Noise and Vibration Monitoring:
    Prepare a proposed method to provide weekly noise and vibration level measurements, including equipment to be employed, method of measurement and associated metrics, and the criteria for selecting the location of noise measurements.
  6. Communications:
    1. Develop a more comprehensive communication system including a Web site which is updated daily, to communicate information to local residents including detailed information about the current pile-driving activities and associated equipment on the site, projected activities and their location for the following two weeks, as well as any projected periods of inactivity;
    2. Provide at least two weeks' notice of any change to the project plans, including the schedule for pile-driving activities and any projected periods of inactivity;
    3. Have an e-mail address and telephone line, both to be answered by a person knowledgeable about the project and its schedule, for residents to communicate particular concerns about the current and projected pile-driving activities. GO Transit is to investigate and respond within 48 hours;
    4. Post on the Web site a weekly report containing the results of noise and vibration measurements as well as an assessment of the effectiveness of mitigative measures implemented; any complaints received, and how they were addressed and resolved; and, any changes to the project schedule.

Information on the Agency's process for dealing with rail noise and vibration complaints is contained in its Guidelines for the Resolution of Complaints Concerning Railway Noise and Vibration.

For more information, contact the Agency.

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