Replacing the Centennial Parkway rail overpass will likely be at least 50 percent more expensive than estimated earlier this year and it now may be 2015 before the project is completed. According to CNR the existing overpass is structurally sound, but city efforts to improve access to the new Wal–Mart for pedestrians, as well as changes required to accommodate a new GO Transit station have made the reconstruction more urgent.
This year’s city budget allocates $5 million in each of 2013 and 2014 for the bridge, but a report to councillors this week pointed to the $2.4 million value of the affected portion of Centennial Parkway that will be reconstructed, and the costs of “an environmental assessment approval for the required stormwater works” that are expected to be in the $2–3 million range. The underpasses here and at Kenilworth Avenue are notorious for flooding during rainstorms.
In 2009, council ignored objections from provincial officials, and rezoned the industrial lands on the north side of the rail line to accommodate a new Wal–Mart store that has replaced the one previously located at Eastgate Square. There were no sidewalks under the bridge connecting the big box outlet to the low–income residents living in multiple apartment buildings just east of Centennial.
City staff were surprised that they started walking on the road under the railway to get to and from the new store when in opened in March. That led to the closure of half the north–bound roadway to accommodate a temporary pedestrian path at an undisclosed cost – a situation that has caused traffic tie–ups but now appears likely to continue for up to three more years.
A new HSR service to the big box store has also been established – costing taxpayers an expected $150,000 per year and vaulting over long–promised HSR improvements elsewhere. City staff hope some of the city’s bridge reconstruction costs can be reduced because the GO station will require adding two more sets of tracks and thus double the size of the bridge.
Staff recommend negotiating an agreement with GO and CN that would see the latter manage the overall bridge replacement, and the city pay part of the costs, rather than Hamilton’s share being determined by what it would have cost to just replace the bridge at its current width.
“The GO station portion of the project will be handled by CNR through a separate agreement between them and require platform and under track access work,” explains the staff report. “The city would contribute financially to the overall bridge project cost on the basis of the equivalent replacement cost of the existing track width had there been no other CNR/GO initiatives and for the cost of all road work.”
Up until recently there had been confusion about who owns the bridge, but it has now been determined that it belongs to the city, not the railway company. After the city decided to replace it, council was formally notified by CN that the bridge was “safe and in no need of reconstruction”.
Staff aren’t specifically contradicting that, but write that “the current structure is substandard in terms of lane width, vehicle height and pedestrian accommodation” – all deficiencies that were present for decades before council’s Wal–Mart decision.
GO Transit’s decision to site its east Hamilton station at Centennial rather than the Fifty Road location preferred by the city will also require substantial alterations including the widening of the bridge. The staff report provides no comment on who will ultimately own and be financially responsible for the enlarged bridge, but assumes that GO or CN will cover the costs of the required widening. V