City seeks proposals on rail-yard pedestrian overpass

Image courtesy City of Terrace White lines on this aerial photo indicate area where a pedestrian overpass at Kalum St. to span CN’s tracks and yard might be built.

The City of Terrace is looking for a company to examine the feasibility of designing and then constructing a pedestrian overpass spanning CN’s tracks and yard at Kalum St.

And it is doing so thanks to a $40,000 provincial grant and $10,000 of its own money.

A pedestrian overpass has been wanted for years and calls grew following the 2016 deaths of two residents in two separate incidents struck by trains while trespassing in an attempt to cross the tracks.

Demand was renewed again last fall when a third person was killed and another injured in another two incidents.

“The consultant will be responsible for examining the site constraints and developing design options which address the challenges of this site,” reads a city request for tender document posted on BC Bid, the website used by the public sector to solicit bids for services and equipment.

A background document also posted by the city indicates the study will give it an idea of costs and “will place the city in a strong position to consider possible infrastructure grants to assist in a future capital construction project.”

City official Danielle Myles said it is important to consider that the study is meant to determine whether the project is feasible.

“If the project is determined to be feasible, council would still need to review the report and decide whether to go ahead with it. If they decided to go ahead, next steps would be determined at that time,” she said.

Additional background provided by the city on its BC Bid post points to the challenges facing Southside pedestrians who want to gain access to the majority of city and other services located across the tracks.

“The east side of the city hosts a number of recreational facilities including the curling club, a gaming centre, the ice arena and swimming pool, as well as the downtown core commercial area. Many of Terrace’s low-income housing complexes are situated on the south side,” it states.

“This study is required to determine whether a pedestrian overpass across the CN Railway at Kalum Street is feasible to further improve the safety of Terrace residents and improve our active transportation network,” the document adds.

A pedestrian overpass at Kalum St. scored the second highest after improvements to Lanfear Hill when residents were asked for their opinions on transportation issues as part of a $70,000 city master transportation plan released last year.

But the plan cast doubt on the Kalum St. location for a pedestrian/cycle overpass citing the distance to be crossed and impediments at the spot.

“The concern with this location is that it crosses 14 rail lines at the widest point in the CN yard. Assuming that CN would agree to a bridge crossing through the centre of their yard, the bridge would have to be a clear span of approximately 100 metres, as there is no space available for bridge piers,” the study noted.

“A planning-level cost estimate for such a structure, with the necessary lighting, railings, and accessible bridge approaches, is approximately $10 to $15 million (based on the costs of other pedestrian bridges in western Canada of comparable length).”

Instead, the study’s authors suggested a gondola system at the location might be more cost effective and practical.

Such a system could be “designed to automatically shuttle pedestrians and cyclists from ground level to ground level, and crossing the tracks at a clearance of 11 metres. The typical speed for such an installation would be three metres per second making a crossing approximately two minutes in duration,” the study continued.

“These facilities are commonly used for active transportation connections outside North America. The cost is estimated at $3-4 million for construction, with an estimated annual operating cost of $50,000.”

In briefing council when the transportation plan was released in May 2017, key author Glenn Stanker from McElhanney Consulting noted that the city could pay for numerous other transportation projects, with the exception of another vehicle overpass, for the money it could spend on a Kalum St. pedestrian overpass.

And if a pedestrian bridge was still desired, the study indicated, building it on the eastern end of the CN rail yard would be less costly because it would only need to span two to three rail lines there.

That general location is a popular spot for trespassers and is where people have been struck and killed by trains.

CN has also built fences paralleling the tracks to reduce trespassing.

Companies interested in bidding on the feasibility study have until March 2 to file their submissions.

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