The proposed Ross Street underpass.  (City of Salmon Arm illustration)

Column: City of Salmon Arm on track for underpass construction

Council Report by Mayor Alan Harrison

What is happening with the Ross Street Underpass?

This is an often-asked question around town lately, especially by those many people who were hung up by the railway car breakdown last Wednesday afternoon.

I heard from a mom who was in her car with her three children in the line-up. She politely commented to me that, “Kids are excited to count rail cars as a train passes by, but when the train is stopped in front of them for 45 minutes, they start to lose interest!”

I am happy to share with you that council made a big step forward at our most recent council meeting.

The motion passed reads, “Council authorize Staff to enter into the ‘Subway Construction Agreement,’ with Canadian Pacific Railway to formalize the terms of construction for the Ross Street Underpass.”

Over the past two years, city staff have been working diligently to move this project forward. With our partners, primarily CP Rail, there have been many, many meetings working through the technical, legal and, most recently, indemnity pieces of the project.

Read more: Next for Salmon Arm underpass: build new tracks to avoid construction area

Read more: Projected cost of Salmon Arm’s Ross Street underpass goes up by $3.5 million

At first, this project may sound quite simple; build a tunnel under the railroad tracks. However, this becomes quite complex when plans include up to 30 moving trains a day running through the site as the underpass is being constructed.

The actual technical parts of the underpass, while complicated, are solidly in place and ready to go. A major challenge has been the shoofly track. The shoofly is the detour track that trains will run on, around the actual underpass construction site.

Of course, trains carrying goods across the country cannot shut down while the underpass is being built. The shoofly track will be used for the duration of construction, allowing trains to bypass the construction zone.

This is now engineered and ready to go.

A serious consideration of council, prior to agreeing to the motion, was that of risk. Staff has worked hard to minimize the liability to the city, and council agreed to move forward.

The city has pre-qualified six construction firms with experience in this kind of work. The tender will go out to these firms in the new year, with construction planned to start in the spring.

By spring 2022, when you want to head to Marine Park and the waterfront, whether walking, on bike or in your vehicle, there will be no waiting.

Under the tracks you will go!

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