There are three huge physical obstacles to developing a sustainable downtown for Brandon.
First is the CPR rail line that slices Brandon in two. Rerouting the huge CPR container traffic around Brandon is not an insurmountable task. Second, the CNR coal train from Esterhazy, Sask., that empties out at the hydro plant could be routed north or south with little confusion or massive upgrades. Such a useful overhaul would also ensure rail links with the Koch plant are maintained and even improved.
Once we de-track Brandon’s core, the third obstacle before us is the removal of the 18th and Eighth Street bridges. This is a no-brainer. The real estate bonus for such a move is one that would astound even the most amateur of urban planners. A medium road grade from the North 40, graded up to Rosser Avenue would allow free-flow four-lane traffic to break the 18th Street traffic stranglehold separating north and south Brandon.
The full commercial development of 18th Street would definitely be streamlined. As well, full-flow wheelchair and bicycle access would cement the city together once and for all.
The Daly bridge over the CPR tracks on 18th Street — of Roman aqueduct design — pounds every vehicle suspension with sledgehammer blows that are made worse in winter due to the expansion joints that are made larger in winter’s freezing temperatures.
The retrofix for this antiquated bridge ... the one that our mayor and the Brandon East NDP MLA are egging the City of Brandon, the province and federal government on for would be a calamity. Anyone who has ever trucked North American Lumber, Home Depot and Windsor Plywood gyproc over that bridge knows exactly what I am talking about.
Short, sweet and simple. Let’s stop abusing our downtown’s ability to sustainably survive ... and let’s showcase our city to all the other North American city planners who also can’t jump-start the traffic Jell-O they’ve made of their downtowns!
Imagine no CPR tracks and instead, a tiered slope of new real estate that continues together to join north and south Brandon. I spun this tale to the highway’s infrastructure head in Brandon one day last November and he said that plan would have a 2050 date stamp on it, I presumed the way urban development plans progress.
Everyone knows that even the CPR deserted our downtown! The railroad companies that once grew and populated the Prairies, the North, and the West Coast don’t need cities to survive — in fact they know that they are now in the way.
If you go to our vastly under-used public library, you can sit and read today’s Brandon Sun and stare out at the desolate north side of Rosser Street: Brandon’s one-stop no-shop stripped-mall address.
John Paul Jacobson
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 14, 2014