Monday September 01, 2014

EDITORIAL - Future Yorkton needs bold present


History favours the bold.

On February 5, the City of Yorkton presented its preliminary plan for rebuilding Broadway Street to the business people who it will most affect.

It is a comprehensive plan, encompassing nearly the entire length of the street, from Hwy 9 in the east to Hwy 10 in the west. It would replace everything on and under the surface. In its current iteration, the rebuild would take three years starting in 2015.

The estimated cost of the project? A whopping $45 million, of which the City is hopeful two-thirds will come from the federal and provincial governments.

Anybody who has driven on Broadway over the past few years knows how badly it needs to be repaved, but the real problem is not what we see, but what is underneath.

Most of the sanitary sewer system and water mains are close to or more than 100 years old, far surpassing the 75-year life expectancy of this kind of infrastructure. The storm sewers are newer (1950s), but also in bad shape and not up to current standards.

In addition to the problem of the decaying pipes, there is a major capacity issue. It is not adequate for current needs, much less future growth envisioned by City officials.

In city planning there are projects that fall under the category of “nice-to-have.” This is not one of those projects. A city’s main street is its heart and ours is in desperate need of a quadruple bypass lest it become a relic of the founders’ vision surrounded by the suburban sprawl of big box stores and strip malls.

Funding from upper levels of government or not, Yorkton has long ago passed the point of no return on the reconstruction of main street.

Trent Mandzuk, the City’s director of public works, addressed this at the February 5 meeting. Options being considered if the feds and Province don’t come through include stretching the project over a longer period of time and/or pursuing longer term borrowing options.

The crux of the matter is, whatever it takes, it must be done. And while we are at it, since we are ripping up the street anyway, why not put moving the railroad tracks out of town back on the table?

The answer, of course, is money. Moving the tracks would at least double the cost of the project. Even with higher-level government contributions, the debt load would exceed the City’s borrowing limits and basically hamstring the municipal administration from doing anything else for decades.

Nevertheless, moving the tracks should have been done long ago; there is absolutely no reason any more for trains, which are getting longer and more dangerous all the time, to have to go through town. It wasn’t done because of money. Now, it is astronomically more costly than it would have been if previous Councils had had the foresight and vision to find a way. It is not ever going to get cheaper.

Will it likely be painful? Yes, but let us not forget that reconstructing Broadway is a 75- to 100-year benefit to the city, moving the tracks perhaps even longer.

There is a lot of very positive stuff going on in Yorkton, but most of it is on the periphery. This project has the potential to move some of that positive growth back to the core.

Is it risky? Yes, but we have to ask ourselves, what choice do we have and if not now, when?

One editorial cannot answer all the questions of how we can accomplish such an outrageously ambitious goal. What it can do, however, is call on the City’s leadership to be bold and find a way to get it done.

Yorkton of the future will thank them for it.




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