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Sudbury’s Downtown Rail Lands: City Needs to Think Big

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The biggest single economic opportunity for Sudbury today is probably the redevelopment of the rail lands downtown. The project would boost property values around the core and along Lake Ramsey. It would open up commercial and residential development in the heart of the city. It would let the city solve some major traffic problems.

Where could the rail-yards go? North of the city, providing improved yards, industrial land, and faster, safer passage for CP. Do the total economic gains outweigh the total costs? It sure looks like it – even more now that we are seeing just how risky some of the cargos can be.

The plan to divert CP around the downtown has been around as long as the Maley Drive Extension proposal. A 1972 City study that concluded “that railway relocation is feasible and that many of the objectives desired by the city would be achieved.” That study did not include the benefits of downtown redevlopment. It did not consider the value of imporvements in the rail system. It did not consider the potential for developing new industrial lots, or the possibilitty that a parallel road could divert traffic around the downtown. A 1982 study came to the same conclusion. Removing the yards and the mainline through downtown is already part of the City’s master plan.

So why hasn’t it happened? My theory is that the city fell on hard time in the second half of the 1970’s. Mining employment fell, growth stopped. The city lost faith in itself. The city politicians lost the abilitiy to think big.

Times have changed. The City is in the middle of an economic and cultural renaissance. Will we see a rebirth of political ambiton and imagination to match the changes already underway in other sectors? It seems to me there is hope.



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