Move them or go under them.
Those are the choices currently being discussed by city council when it comes to dealing with delays caused by trains moving through the city.
The issue was on the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting of the transportation committee at city hall.
An administration report submitted to the committee suggested just studying the cost of a potential move for over 55 kilometres of track running through the city would itself cost as much as $400,000.
The committee accepted the report, noting that the decision on whether to undertake the cost study would have to be made during budget deliberations in December 2016.
Committee members also heard a presentation from Canadian Pacific representative Mike LoVecchio.
LoVecchio advocated for Saskatoon to pursue the more modest option of putting in underpasses at intersections where train delays are a problem.
Questioned by the committee, LoVecchio said CP would potentially be willing to contribute towards the costs of those projects, provided the city could present a strong business case.
The report also contained information on the underpass option. City officials came up with a list of six intersections that would be prime candidates for grade seperation between rails and roads. The report authors used a points system, with the highest value placed on eliminating delays for emergency services vehicles. Transit delays and delays for other drivers were also considered. Lastly, benefit to the railways was factored in.
Based on those criteria, the report listed the six intersections in order of priority as follows:
- 22nd Street at Avenue F
- Idylwyld Drive at 25th Street
- Marquis Drive
- Preston Avenue
- 11th Street at Dundonald Avenue
- Central Avenue at Gray Avenue
Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison defended the relocation option. He said he wanted administration to look at factors beyond up-front cost, such as the impact on businesses that might have to close due to the underpasses. Atchison said he also wanted to see consideration of the value that could be added by converting former railway land into things like bike paths if the rails were moved.
Speaking after the committee discussion, Councillor Darren Hill said any decision on either option remains a ways off. While he said it would be ideal to have the rail lines relocated, he noted such a project would probably reach into the billions of dollars — with little likelihood that the railways or other levels of government would offer much help with the tab.
“We have not seen anybody showing up with a big bag of money to say ‘we’re going to pay for this.’ At the end of the day it all comes down to the taxpayer – do they want (relocation)? and do they want to pay for it?” he said.