Saskatoon’s mayor and a city councillor are weighing in on the possibility of moving rail yards out of the city, with very different tones.
Mayor Charlie Clark and Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill reacted Tuesday to news of a private sector plan to build a rail park northeast of Clavet. with the goal of attracting both CP Rail and CN Rail’s main yards.
The Saskatoon Transportation Link Rail Park is currently working to attract the rail companies’ main customers in the city, including Viterra, hoping it will make it worthwhile for them to move their yards.
But Clark told the Brent Loucks Show it’s still unlikely the rail yards would move without the city paying.
“As we’ve learned from other cities, these aren’t situations where the rail lines come in and say ‘oh yeah, we’ll pay,'” he said.
“They say ‘we were here first, and if you want us to move then the city pays up.'”
The mayor also noted simply moving the yards wouldn’t solve Saskatoon’s traffic issues at rail crossings, since trains would still need to travel through the city to go west.
Councillor Darren Hill was more optimistic about the project.
“The group that’s piecing this together has certainly done their due diligence in trying to align all of the moving parts that need to come together to make this happen,” he told 650 CKOM in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
The Ward 1 representative added he hoped a $600,000 rail line study in Saskatoon would consider the STL Rail Park as a potential solution.
The study was initially ordered to analyze whether to build overpasses/underpasses at rail crossings or pay to move the rail lines outside city limits. Both options are projected to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Laurie Bradley, an investor involved with the STL Rail Park, suggested there could be a business case for the rail companies to move their yards and footing the bill themselves.
He said the land they own in Saskatoon has value, and the rail park would allow them to build and invest for over 100 years since the park is located outside of the city’s projected long-term growth limits.
Coun. Hill noted he’s meeting with representatives from CN and CP in late May at a conference, and would bring up the subject.