Saskatoon’s Bridge from Nowhere

Sean Shaw has a great post on the proposed North Commuter Bridge and the process that surrounded it.

An internet search pinpoints an announcement on March 15th by the City Administration regarding the Integrated Growth Plan – the blue print that will guide Saskatoon’s growth for the next couple of decades – and the transportation plans included within that plan (Proposed Plan, March 2012 here). An article in the Star Phoenix the following day suggests that a North bridge has been on the planning books for Saskatoon since 1999. However, as recent as 2007, official City planning documents indicate only one proposed North Bridge, the provincially driven “North Perimeter” Bridge and Highway, which was originally proposed in 2000, with no mention of a second North Bridge (2007 University Heights Sector Plan – here – compare the map on page 2 to the Commuter Bridge Map). Moreover, the Sector Plan for University Heights has not been officially changed by City Council to include the proposed “North Commuter” Bridge or it’s connecting roadways, including the proposed arterial road that will now bi-sect the ecologically sensitive Northeast Swale (according to the Sector Plan no arterial roadways are supposed to cross the swale).

The lack of any historical documentation suggests that the “North Commuter” Bridge appeared out of thin-air early last year.

While researching this file last month, I made a request to City Administration to provide any public documents that outlined the feasibility of the proposed “North Commuter” Bridge – specifically traffic impact studies, like the one conducted for the Traffic Bridge, that demonstrated the requirement for the Bridge. I was told that no such study existed. Infact, the study (Transportation Functional Planning Study) that will determine the feasibility of different river crossings and how they will impact future traffic won’t be completed until later this month.

Furthermore, its commonly held in the local engineering community that the “North Perimeter” Bridge and Highway would be a better use of public dollars, in terms of addressing traffic movement for the City as a whole (funny enough, the same was said about the South Circle Bridge, namely that the North Perimeter Bridge should have been built first).

The entire post is worth reading until you realize that Saskatoon City Council has gone ahead and spent $100 million on a bridge that is going to be about 1/2 mile from another new bridge without understanding the impact of that bridge.  If anything they are doing their best to make city council spending in Regina and Markham sound reasonable.

The StarPhoenix’s call for change

From a StarPhoenix editorial on Friday

In the postwar era, suburbanites ruled by the power of the ballot, and governments were forced to react to their concerns.

It’s also significant that the events in Saskatoon coincided with a report from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, which said that by mid-September the polar ice cap had retreated to historic levels, shattering the record retreat from 2007 and threatening to leave an ice-free Arctic decades sooner than expected.

The old way of building cities for automobiles is no longer on, Mr. Greenberg said. Except, as Saskatoon grows, that is exactly what is happening. Its suburbs still spread out in all directions, with large homes, two-vehicle-garages and car dependent citizens.

This isn’t only happening within city limits, where planners and city councillors are trying to adjust development patterns to favour denser development, but it’s happening past Saskatoon’s fringes where rural politicians argue that the city has no right to rain on their parade of sprawl.

The true test of Mr. Greenberg’s theory of a paradigm shift won’t just be the willingness of young citizens to sacrifice a Thursday evening to hear him. The test will be if they inform civic politicians on the hustings of their visions, if they turn out on Oct. 24 to mark their ballots, and if they spread the message those provincial and federal politicians and business leaders who are claiming that there is no difference between urban or rural interests.