It’s back to the drawing board for a pedestrian overpass at the CN railyard after the city shelved designs as being too cost prohibitive. The preferred option would cost around $11.6 million to build over two years, not including the purchase of CN rail property.
“There are a lot of advantages for having a pedestrian overpass but it’s certainly something that we can’t afford at this time,” said Mayor Carol Leclerc.
Terrace has an annual capital works budget for projects like this of between $2-$3 million. This scale of infrastructure cost would require significant grant funding to be considered by council, according to David Block, city planner.
A feasibility study was presented on June 25 from FAAS Architecture and Parsons Inc., two consultants hired by the city using a $40,000 provincial rural dividend grant to support the project and $10,000 from the 2018 budget. This is the first time the City of Terrace has done a study looking into the possibility of a pedestrian overpass
Calls for the overpass grew following the 2016 deaths of two residents in two separate incidents struck by trains while attempting to cross the tracks on CN property. Demand was renewed again last fall when a third person was killed and another injured in two other separate incidents.
During the Parsons site visit to Terrace, three possible alignment options for an overpass were developed, two of which were rejected in favour of Alignment A.
This design imagines the 80-metre free structure landing half a kilometre west of Kalum Street with ramps extending down to the Co-op property to the north and the existing CN storage yard to the south. This would provide direct access to Kalum Street, the Grand Trunk pathway and the George Little House.
However, this would require a significant portion of CN property to make it happen. When Parsons Inc. reached out to CN about the project, they said they are not currently allowing any city infrastructure to be placed on their lands.
“They’re reluctant to give up land at this conceptual stage because they have unconfirmed, as they put it, expansion plans,” said Alexander Moroz, bridge engineer with Parsons. “So that’s something that needs to be looked at in preliminary design.”
A spokesperson with CN said that they have reviewed the study and although they are in support of an overpass structure over and across the rail right-of-way, they cannot accept an option that has any bridge infrastructure placed on the rail right-of-way.
“CN would be happy to consider other options that do not involve placing overpass infrastructure on CN property,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to the Terrace Standard.
Currently, the only way for pedestrians to get across the tracks dividing the city into northern and southern halves are at opposite ends of town. Large gaps have been created in the fencing along the CN yard at Emerson Street, Kalum Street, Atwood Street and School Street, where pedestrians sometimes trespass across the 15 lines of track, putting their safety at risk.
Repairing the existing gaps in the fencing along CN property is key to move forward with a pedestrian overpass, said Peter Phillips, Calgary area manager for Parsons, during their presentation.
“What we’ve found on previous assignments with CN in other municipalities is that unless you actually fence off CN, even with pedestrian bridge infrastructure, people will still walk across the tracks because it’s too hard for them to go up the staircase or up a ramp and across the tracks and down,” he said. “So part of the assignment here is to fill all of those gaps with fencing.”
But they aren’t mutually exclusive. When asked if the city should just focus on fencing the property without putting in a pedestrian bridge, Phillips said that while that option is less costly and will increase safety, people will still cut through the fence to get across. “People can be very innovative when they need to be,” he said.
The city said they will share the pedestrian overpass report with CN and will continue to look at other funding opportunities to pursue this project at a later date.
“It’s information that we have that if there’s opportunity for funding that we can go after funding, but it’s just not something that we can afford to do today,” said Leclerc.