'It’s going to go below the river’: Saskatoon mayoral candidate suggests rail lines move underground
Published Tuesday, September 29, 2020 1:41PM CST Last Updated Tuesday, September 29, 2020 6:47PM CST
SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon mayoral candidate says the best way to deal with rail lines moving through the city, is to move them underground.
Cary Tarasoff shared his vision with reporters Tuesday morning on Idylwyld Drive North and 25th Street East, where afternoon and morning motorists often find themselves lined up waiting for a train to pass.
Tarasoff referenced the two options explored by city officials in the past to help deal with issues of having long trains, sometimes carrying hazardous materials, moving through the city.
One option is to move the rail lines outside of the city, which in the past has been coupled with a $1 billion price tag. Tarasoff said a second option would be to trench along the rail lines and build overpasses and underpasses to accommodate the rail lines over and under roadways.
"There’s a third option that nobody wants to talk about -- we go under the city,” Tarasoff said. “It’s going to go below the river, you won’t even know it’s under you.”
A Saskatoon mayoral candidate says the best way to deal with rail lines moving through the city, is to move them underground.
While he didn’t attach an estimated cost to digging a tunnel large enough to accommodate two rail systems, Tarasoff said it would be less than the billion dollars to move the rail lines outside the city.
“The real idea is we can predict where we depart from a rail line and where we intercept it on the other side, under the city,” he said.
Tarasoff, said he has a history working in mining and that he spoke with mining and geology experts and no one said this was impossible.
“They tell me there’s no real reason why it shouldn’t have been looked at,” he said.
Last week mayoral candidate Don Atchison said he has the experience and expertise to broker a deal with the rail companies to negotiate a move outside the city.
A report from city administration earlier this year said rail companies told the city that sharing a single rail line through the city was not feasible as it would impede rail traffic operations. A Canadian National Rail spokesperson said sharing railways with its competitor would limit flexibility and efficiency.
Tarasoff said he’s not looking to spend millions of dollars right away on this plan, however, it’s something he said he feels needs to be given a serious look as another option to deal with rail lines passing through Saskatoon.
"It sounds complicated but it’s not,” he said.
David Elwood with the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan said while Tarasoff’s plan is something he’d personally love to see, it’s not realistic.
“The cost of it would probably be close, I won’t say billions, but hundreds of millions to a billion, because we’re not talking about a one-kilometre tunnel, we’re talking about multiple kilometres of tunnels.”
Safety of train conductors as well as the challenge of what to do with the exhaust given off by running diesel trains is another hurdle to consider.
Mayoral candidate Charlie Clark said the previous City Council and the city have priced out the plan to move the rail lines outside the city at $600 million - and that involves no tunneling.
“We know train delays and rail safety are concerns in this city. What I’ve been focusing on is understanding in practical terms what the actual cost will be, what the best options might be. Tunneling under the city is not a realistic conversation,” he said.