A federal arbitrator is helping the City of Moose Jaw and Canadian Pacific Railway reach an agreement on how much money each should contribute to support rehabilitation of the Thunderbird Viaduct — a project whose cost continues to increase.
The municipality entered mediation with the railway company — now known as Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKS) — last year to confirm a cost-sharing agreement for the Fourth Avenue bridge. The city believes the bridge allows CPKS to continue offering uninterrupted services and operations at its rail yard.
The structure’s design has been finished since last year and is shovel-ready, with the city waiting for CPKS’s engineers to review the design and approve it and related permitting requirements.
A recent city council report indicated — and city hall confirmed — that mediation between the two parties had failed, so they were advancing the matter to arbitration through the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA).
Rail arbitration is one of three types of arbitration the agency offers for dispute resolution, according to its website.
The types of disputes under this category include the application of any rate or charge for movement of goods; charges for incidental services; road and utility crossings; and any other railway matter under Part III of the Canada Transportation Act.
The possible outcome is the arbitrator will make a legally binding, confidential decision to settle a dispute, the website says.
Either the arbitrator or the parties can then establish the rules of procedure — since there are no legislated rules — or they can follow the agency’s proposed rules of procedure. They then simultaneously exchange proposals and briefs, while the CTA will hold the hearings at its head office unless the parties agree to an alternative location.
Arbitration awards will include confidential written reasons and will be made within seven days after the hearing’s close, the website said. The arbitrator is not limited to choosing between one or the other party’s position — the award may be consistent with the position of either party or may be different from their positions.
Arbitration awards will be final and binding on the parties.
City hall told the Express by email, “Arbitration is ongoing and we are hoping for a quick resolution. This project consumes a significant portion of the transportation capital budget and we would like clarity in advance of 2024 budget submissions.”
City hall added that it wouldn’t have a formal cost estimate for the bridge rehabilitation until later this year.
However, what’s known is that the municipality thought in December 2020 that the project would start in 2022 and cost $11.12 million.
City administration discussed the project during the budget discussions last December but did not give a cost estimate then. It’s possible, based on inflation, that the project has now jumped to roughly $20 million.
The Moose Jaw Express will produce another story about the first dispute between the City of Moose Jaw and Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1980s over who was responsible for repairing the bridge.