A developer’s plan to build an industrial park southeast of Saskatoon could solve the city’s railway woes.
A group of investors has purchased 1,400 acres of land north of the Cargill plant in Clavet, Sask.
The land is located along the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) main line and a smaller Canadian National (CN) line.
The investors working to establish the Saskatoon Transportation Link Rail Park (STL) hope to attract industry to the land, especially CP and CN.
“We are in the perfect storm of establishing a rail yard,” said Laurie Bradley, the developer heading up the project.
Bradley told 650 CKOM’s David Kirton his group is building a business case for the rail companies to move their yards.
One of those selling points is that the land is located outside city limits, and outside of Saskatoon’s projected growth area.
“They can spend huge money, and building a rail park is hundreds of millions of dollars,” Bradley said. “They can invest in a rail park that isn’t going to move.”
By convincing the two competing rail companies to set up shop at the STL Rail Park, Bradley hopes the new park can eliminate the need for the City of Saskatoon to pay for CP to move their rails, or for expensive underpasses or overpasses.
“If there’s a chance to move CP out of town, whether it’s just the rail yard first and the rail line second, so be it,” he said. “We have a place to put it.”
BRINGING BUSINESS TO THE PARK
Key to relieving Saskatoon’s rail congestion is another actor: Viterra.
Bradley said STL has approached the agriculture giant about relocating their grain terminal, currently located in Saskatoon’s Montgomery neighbourhood.
The current terminal is the main stop for CP trains moving through Saskatoon.
Getting Viterra to move their terminal to the STL Rail Yard would give CP more incentive to bypass the city altogether.
Viterra told STL they “liked the idea” but they had just invested more money in the 11th Street location, according to Bradley.
But Bradley said there’s still a case to be made for Viterra moving, given the Montgomery terminal is nearly 100 years old.
The developer said he’s more than willing to make a business deal with the company to get them out of Saskatoon.
“I would trade land with them so fast it’d make your head spin.”
Expensive, but money to be made
Bradley admitted moving the rail yards would be expensive for CP. But given their current locations, he said the company could make some money to offset the costs from the relocation.
“No matter how much it costs us to move them out of Sutherland, there’s some money there,” he said.
If CP moves the rail yard, the city could end up re-zoning the land parcels and attracting more property tax payers to the area.
Asked to comment on the group’s efforts, Mayor Charlie Clark’s spokesperson said it was “too early to comment.”
Requests for comment from CN Rail had not been returned at time of writing.
CP: ‘Saskatoon Infrastructure meets our needs’
CP sent an email statement regarding the STL project and the city’s upcoming study into the options of moving rail lines or building underpasses or overpasses.
The company said they were prepared to co-operate with the study, but didn’t indicate much enthusiasm for moving their operations.
“Our infrastructure in Saskatoon meets our needs,” wrote company spokesperson Jeremy Berry.
Berry went on to write that any move would have to be assessed by the company, customers, regulators, the local community and all levels of government.
“An extensive review would need to take place to determine the impact to customer service and the full cost to all stakeholders, which will be significant,” Berry wrote.