Underpass recommendation coming for last rail crossing downtown

A recommended plan for a new underpass, which would take traffic under the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline at 11th Street S.W., will be unveiled this week.

But it’s possible two recommendations could go forward to city council for final approval, including one that wouldn’t include road traffic at all.

A senior planner with the city’s transportation department, Shane LeBouthillier, said they put six options out for public engagement.

Essentially, two of the options include vehicle traffic as well as other mobility modes like pedestrians and cyclists, but four of the top six options don’t include room for vehicles at all.

“Normally, we have just one option going forward. This time, we do have one option but we have an alternate,” said LeBouthillier.

“Because we are thinking differently about our rights of way, we want to bring forward both options to have a fruitful discussion with council.”

The top recommended options will be unveiled by the city on Wednesday.

Councillor keeps open mind

There will be a public open house online on June 15 with the engagement period remaining open until the end of June.

The councillor for the area, Terry Wong, said he’s keeping an open mind on which option he’ll support.

“It’s important for us to hear what people in the downtown, the west end as well as the Beltline feel about it,” said Wong.

“If you take vehicles off the roadway, it is obviously going to change the traffic patterns and we want to be sure we understand the implications of all that.”

Green space wanted

An official with the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association said the group supports the vehicle-free options as that would add badly needed public green space to that part of the core.

Tyson Bolduc said drivers can quickly get to nearby underpasses at Eighth Street S.W. and 14th Street S.W., but pedestrians, cyclists and other mobility modes that are currently blocked when trains pass through the area face much longer detours in terms of travel time.

“Given the relative lack of park space and amenity space in the Beltline, being able to actually then leverage that and create meaningful urban spaces for the Beltline, for downtown, for the west end is, I think, potentially a game changer for that intersection,” said Bolduc.

After another round of public engagement on the preferred options, a final report will go to city council later this year to select the final concept.

While the project is currently unfunded, officials say it is possible an underpass could be included in the city’s four year budget plan, which will be discussed by council in November. 

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