PortsToronto’s (PosTO) environmental assessment (EA) got off to an interesting start on Dec. 9 when PosTO unveiled its Iron Curtain aka noise barriers.
The Iron Curtain
When an organization proposes a wall long enough and high enough to block the view from a substantial part of the western harbour and beyond, from Lower Spadina to Ontario Place, it better be able to justify the visual disruption it proposes to inflict on waterfront users.
The PosTO’s Iron Curtain is a 6 m high, 850 m long solid wall blocking the view from the city to the island in the east and the lake in the west, purportedly to act as a noise barrier.
The eastern portion along the existing runway and the proposed extension will be approximately 550 m, with 200 m jutting east into the harbour.
On the west, the Iron Curtain will run 300 m. Like the eastern portion, it too will be 6 m or 20 feet (19.685 feet) high.
With a wall close to 20 feet tall, is PortsToronto trying to hide or protect something? Maybe both.
The Iron Curtain Surprise
The concept drawings for both the east and west noise barriers appear to be something new entirely.
Compare it to the concept drawing in the Porter Airlines’ presentation.
Neither is it found in the drawing prepared by the Porter consultant LPS Avia.
It’s like these Iron Curtains have sprung like Athena fully formed out of Zeus’s skull. Indeed, if they haven’t previously been mentioned and they have suddenly appeared as part of the PosToo’s environmental assessment, surely they are worthy of further examination.
The Iron Curtain as Mitigation
The first thing that calls for attention is the sound factor. It seems strange that the operation of the CS100 whisper jet should require such extensive noise barriers when the airport expansionists claim that they are as quiet as the present aircraft.
If the CS100 is as quiet as Porter’s Q400 and the PortsToronto is concerned enough about the taxiing noise, why didn’t PortsToronto construct noise barriers along the runways when the Q400 started using the airport in 2006?
In addition, as the graphic below shows, the proposed noise barriers are nowhere near the existing ones.
Why don’t the existing noise barriers meet up with the proposed ones?
If the proposed barriers are there to stop noise, why are they proposed for only the north side of the runway? Do not people using the Hanlan’s Point parkland deserve protection from the airport noise?
Are the Iron Curtains really only there to contain noise?
A closer look at PosTO’s east and west noise barrier concepts shows a red Marine Exclusion Zone (MEZ) relocation on the south side of Runway 26 (East). It appears that under the PosTO’s expansion plans the current MEZ will be expanded 24 m further away from its present position. Similarly for Runway 08 (West) the MEZ is expanded 12 m to the north.
If noise is the problem, why does PosTO feel it necessary to expand the MEZs laterally rather than just leave them in situ?
If the barriers are proposed to mitigate only against noise but the MEZ’s require lateral expansion, three questions come to mind.
Does this expansion of the MEZ conflict with city council’s April 1, 2014 contravene the requirement that “a final Code 3 airport runway design, including all modifications to airside facilities, acceptable to Transport Canada, with no changes to the airport’s Marine Exclusion Zones as currently configured, that would materially encroach on the Western Shipping Channel”?
Isn’t the Iron Curtain really to protect boats from jet turbulence, wingtip vortices in particular as the photo below would suggest?
One look at the turbulence produced by a jet’s wingtips and it’s easy to see why boats travelling through the western gap or too close to Hanlan’s Point would face difficulties and why PosTO would want an Iron Curtain.
PortsToronto had eight years to put up noise barriers. If they were truly concerned about taxiing noise from a jet that produces the same levels of noise as the CS100 jet, why would PosTO install their Iron Curtains now instead of eight years ago?
PortsToronto indicated in September that consultants were working on runway design. If the Iron Curtains on Runway 26 (East) and Runway 08 (West) Concepts are necessary, it appears that the design would have difficulty gaining acceptance unless the noise/turbulence factors are mitigated.
Are the PosTO’s Iron Curtains evidence of mitigation in an airport expansion plan for which the outcome of the environmental assessment has already been determined?
The EA is yet to be completed but somehow PosTO knew on December 9 that the Curtain Iron is a necessary component of any expansion plan. It leads to the conclusion that PosTO is determined to proceed with the runway expansion and is simply going through the motions with the EA.
PortsToronto’s rebranding exercise is in part ” … to have the organization work collaboratively, transparently and in partnership”. Perhaps the organization could start by being straight up with the EA and the Iron Curtain.