Relocating the Canadian Pacific Railway yards has been an on-again, off-again topic of discussion in Winnipeg for several years.
The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. The Rail Yard Relocation Project group points to The Forks as what can be achieved by relocating a rail yard (in the case of The Forks, from a city's downtown).
The project was in the spotlight when the former NDP provincial government set aside $400,000 and appointed former Quebec premier Jean Charest in January 2016 to lead a task force to study the issue. It was later dismissed as a political stunt by the incoming Progressive Conservative government, which quashed the initiative in September 2016.
Since then, however, Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton has said the provincial government is willing to reconsider the project — as long as Winnipeg city hall identifies it as an infrastructure priority.
Saskatoon recently decided to continue studying the possibility of moving the CP rail yard out of the heart of that community.
The Saskatchewan city of almost 250,000 residents needs to construct anywhere from five to nine bridges over the local rail lines and its politicians are weighing the cost of those projects and the disruptions to property owners against the cost of relocating the rail yard. The first phase of a feasibility study estimated the costs to be $560 million — a much lower number than the billions of dollars that had been thrown around before the study was launched.
Regina is also looking at relocating its rail yard.
While the Winnipeg group argues relocation can avoid the cost of building bridges, they’re more than a little late on that argument. The city already built the Kenaston Boulevard rail overpass and the Waverley Street underpass project is in the middle of construction. The next big infrastructure project is replacing the Arlington Bridge, which needs to be done soon.
The city has held extensive public consultations for the Arlington Street bridge project and released preliminary drawings, along with a $330-million price tag. City hall hopes to secure federal and provincial support to cost-share the project by 2019 and begin construction a year later.
Coun. Mike Pagtakhan has said city hall can’t delay a decision on the Arlington Bridge while waiting for the results of a rail yard relocation study.
Relocating the rail yard will have ripple effects across the city, which a feasibility study will have to explore, including implications for CP's Weston yards and various industrial spur lines.
— Aldo Santin