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

New CP Rail tracks needed before building Salmon Arm underpass

‘Pretty big area’ of downtown to be affected by construction

Before construction of one of the city’s biggest projects can begin, a new set of tracks must be built to bypass what will become the construction area.

At the local chamber of commerce lunch Wednesday, Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, guided his audience through projects – present and future – for Salmon Arm. The Ross Street Underpass was one.

While one job involving the tracks is finished, more are on the way.

Niewenhuizen explained work completed two weeks ago involved a move of the “hot box detector track,” as it’s called, from the old CP Rail station across Marine Park Drive. It detects if there are any hot spots in the wheels and bearings. If so, the faulty train car must be removed.

That job has been completed and paid for by CP, which means the city can begin its process for building the underpass.

Once funding agreements with CP are finalized, bypassing the existing track will begin.

“We’re going to build a whole new set of tracks to allow trains to go around our construction area. Then we’ll put in the bridge,” he says.

The work will also include building retaining walls to hold the bypass track in place.

Read more: Ross Street underpass predicted to be September-to-September project

Read more: ELECTION 2018: Majority of voters give the nod to underpass spending

Read more: CP pledges $1 million to underpass

Designs are all 100 per cent complete, which has meant a lot of geotechnical work.

“There’s lots of clay, lots of moisture. There will be some de-watering,” said Niewenhuizen. “A lot of risk management has been going on; we’ve been doing that for almost a year. We’re hoping to get all that sorted out in the next two months and have the tender go out in January.”

To improve the tender process, the city “pre-qualified” its contractors. A pre-qualification tender went out and 14 companies applied. That thinned out the field, so the city now has six contractors who have the experience to take on the contract.

“At least we know we’ll get competitive bidding. There’s nothing worse than sending out a tender and not knowing what you’re going to get back,” he said.

The underpass will provide an unobstructed way to get to the north side of the tracks. One side of the road will have a raised walkway so it will level for accessibility, while the other will follow the grade of the road.

He hopes the work will start in the early spring.

And what will it mean for downtown?

Niewenhuizen says “a pretty big area” of the downtown will be affected by construction, but the several existing parking lots are a benefit.

“We shouldn’t be affecting the businesses directly in those areas. Obviously there’s going to be some inconvenience with traffic flow, but on the whole we will be able to work with the contractors and do our best to minimize the impact to the downtown businesses.”

He adds: “Hopefully everyone can bear with us a little bit when we go through the construction project.”


@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

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