Council discusses options for pedestrian crossing over rail tracks
Banff Town Council reviewed issues around installing a pedestrian crossing at the railway tracks to provide a safe and legal route between the Industrial District and the residential area in the northeast end of town at Marmot Crescent.
Building on discussions involving CP Rail, Parks Canada and the Town over the past few years, Council asked for an update on negotiations in early 2022, at which time Council may provide direction on the type of crossing to begin to design.
The long-standing idea of a rail crossing remains a Council priority in their strategic plan. The aim is to create quicker routes for people to walk or cycle to and from work in the Industrial District. It is illegal to trespass on the CP Rail lands and people must ride, walk or drive to the district several extra kilometres via Banff Ave and Compound Road. The rail right-of-way in the proposed crossing area includes a siding for temporary storage of rail cars, increasing the safety hazards on the busy rail line.
Parks Canada would provide direction on the location of the route and requirements, once a type of crossing is determined. The area is a wildlife corridor and there are environmentally sensitive ecosystems and a water corridor.
CP Rail also has stringent requirements for safety, including height requirements, if using a bridge, and safety controls. Safety options such as fencing to prevent people from not using a structure may cause problems for wildlife movement.
An underpass would be the most expensive structure, with estimates up to $20 million, and an underpass would have an impact on the environment and require waterproofing from ground water. An overpass would need to be 200 metres long (the length of the Bear Street commercial hub) for the structure, plus access ramps, and would need to be over 7 metres in height for double-railcar clearance. An overpass would be less expensive, but a larger area and vistas would be affected.
Neither option guarantees people would not cross on the tracks at ground level, without other controls. A third option is a controlled crossing at ground level, on the tracks. CP Rail has indicated that if this option was pursued, pedestrian crossings would be counted, and when it becomes very frequent the Town would need to create an overpass or underpass. Electronic signage, lights, bells, fencing and control arms could be required with this short-term solution.
It is not known if CP Rail or Parks Canada would share costs for a multi-million-dollar crossing.
The report to Council with design concepts and routes is available at https://banff.ca/1199/CPR-Pedestrian-Crossing
Outdoor skating rink returns to The Fenlands, new shinny locations explored
Town Council directed administration to begin installation of an outdoor rink in the meadow outside the northeast corner of The Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre. Council also directed administration to bring to a future meeting options and costs for installing other rinks that allow shinny and skating in town.
The direction came after many residents sent letters to Council expressing disappointment in the prospect of not having an outdoor skating rink this winter season.
The Banff High School has asked the town to not install a rink on their school field this winter to assess if the lack of ice minimizes turf damage and allows students to use the field earlier than August. A rink at Central Park is not possible due to the construction of the new pedestrian bridge. A rink on the Bear Street surface parking lot will not be installed this year to allow vehicle drivers to park in the commercial and service hub.
The high school rink was about 20,000 square-feet in area and the Bear Street rink was about 8,400 square-feet. The Fenlands rink will be about 12,000 square feet and will not add costs because the infrastructure and workers in the recreation centre can be easily deployed outside the building.
Options that will be brought back to Council for consideration will identify costs, location of water supply, potential power for lighting, distance for ice resurfacer to drive, proximity to any parking and other factors. The suitability for shinny hockey will also affect options.
$37.4 million in Capital Projects underway
Town Council reviewed an update of all 60 infrastructure projects underway in the townsite in 2021, including the site preparations for the new pedestrian bridge, the Recreation Grounds Redevelopment and the construction of The Aster affordable housing project.
A total of $34.7 million in capital project funding is being used for 60 projects, 98% of which are on budget. Only one project, the refinishing of the decorative stonework on the heritage Bow River Bridge, went over budget due to the discovery of damage only revealed when the recovery project began. The project required $60,000 in additional funds to complete the work.
Highlights of the report include:
- The new Nancy Pauw Bridge is set to begin construction, creating a pedestrian crossing over the Bow River at Central Park. Design work is 80% complete and all approvals from the federal government have been received. Site preparation is underway for initial excavation next month. When complete in the fall of 2022, the bridge will see at least 5,000 crossings per day. banff.ca/PauwBridge
- The multi-year redevelopment of the Banff Recreation Grounds has completed the new off-leash dog park, the sports field cinder has been capped, a new irrigation system was installed, and the site is ready for 2022 development of the new trails, new picnic areas, pump track redevelopment, toboggan hill creation, horse trail realignment, basketball resurfacing and other amenities. https://banff.ca/948/Recreation-Grounds-Redevelopment-Project
- The Bear Street Renewal project completed the replacement of all underground utilities and transformed the commercial hub into a pedestrian-friendly shared street. The project involved installing 90,000 paver stones and advanced technology for self irrigation of new planers and trees. Since completion in July, pedestrian counts have already tracked a 50% increase in pedestrian traffic. The ratio of pedestrians between Banff Ave and Bear Street has moved from almost 6:1 to about 3:1. https://banff.ca/BearStreet
- The Aster affordable housing complex construction has involved relocating a heritage cabin on the site, controlling ground water dewatering for the parkade and elevator shaft, and completing connections to the water and utility lines located under the centre of Banff Avenue. The underground parkade walls and structural columns were poured this month, paving the way for construction of the apartments above. Wood framing will start early in the New Year, with completion and move-in in mid August. Applications to purchase one of the 33 units are being received until December 15. https://banff.ca/aster
- The Roam Transit Operations and Training Centre was completed in the spring in the Industrial District. The 22,000-square-foot facility will store 32 buses and provide modern simulators for training. The environmentally responsible building has solar panels to help power the new electric fleet, and the building is heated by the Biomass system rather than natural gas. The centre has received an award from the Canadian Urban Transit Association for sustainability. News release and official opening.
- The Biomass District Heating System sparked into operations this year, providing heat for four buildings in the Industrial District by using scrab wood that would normally go to landfill. The facility eliminates 4,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the next two decades. https://banff.ca/1220/Biomass-District-Heating-Facility The facility also has a solar array, which helps the town move away from use of fossil fuels: https://banff.ca/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1418
Banff lobbied to cut tobacco smoking in public places
Banff Town Council received a presentation this week, asking for stricter restrictions on where people can smoke tobacco in town.
Les Hagen, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH Canada) praised Banff for the banning of Cannabis smoking anywhere in public places in town, but said the affects of tobacco smoking are far worse and more places should be restricted with a Town bylaw.
Hagen credited Banff for being the first municipality in Alberta to bring in a tobacco smoking bylaw before the Government of Alberta imposed restriction smoking in areas such as restaurants and bars. Recently, the Province brought in more restrictions on smoking, banning use in playgrounds, sports fields and outside schools and hospitals, but Hagen said Banff should go further and ban smoking in on all public areas such as parks, outdoor markets, trails and group living facilities. Banff was also encouraged to align with Canmore and ban smoking from all hotel rooms.
Hagen also encouraged Banff to levy an additional licence fee on businesses that sell tobacco and cannabis products to recoup some of the costs with dealing with litter, needs for infrastructure and health costs.
Council will review the current restrictions in Banff and potential options in 2022.