City councillors have approved spending just under $210,000 in funding to purchase property from CP Rail, as it allows contractors to expand the roadway and will give residents a bit more room for walking, biking and more along Railway Street, once completed.

Staff with the City of Kenora say the second phase of Railway Street’s reconstruction work was supposed to take place this year, but was delayed as the city continued negotiations with CP Rail, who owned property in the construction area.

CP Rail’s property is located at the Railway Street and Gould Road right-of-way corridors and the southeast corner of Railway Street and the 16th Avenue North intersection.

Prior to a recorded vote on the purchase during a virtual Council meeting on May 18, which would later pass, City councillor Sharon Smith explained why Kenora councillors think the extra property will make a significant difference for the community and was worth the wait.

“We heard very loud and clear from the community that active transportation and opportunities for cyclists, walkers and people with mobility issues were really important for the community,” said Smith, referencing a 1,500 signature petition in support of the work.

The City of Kenora denied adding bike paths to Railway Street when approving the project in 2020, as it would have cost an estimated $400,000 extra. At the time, councillors also noted the request came too late in the municipal planning process.

“We didn’t have enough room for dedicated bike lanes, but we did the second best thing,” explains Smith. “We made sure we pushed those shoulders out to accommodate the amenities the community stepped up and said was really important to them. I’m very proud of this project and how we’ve moved it forward.”

Now, staff are expecting the purchase to be finalized as early as June or July, after receiving approvals. The $185,000 plus HST, or just under $210,000, will be funded through debt financing.

Once the sale of the property is finalized, the city plans to work on Railway Street’s aerial wire and utility pole relocations with Synergy North, Bell, Shaw and Tbay Tel in 2021 to allow more road work to take place and help avoid potential delays with the project in 2022.

However, as the utility pole and aerial wire work were originally scheduled to take place in 2022, councillors will also have to approve additional funding for the work later this year.

When completed, Kenora’s revamped Railway Street is expected to include 1.5 metres of paved shoulders, sidewalks between 10th Avenue South and 16th Avenue South, new underground sewer, water and storm mains, street light replacements and a repaved road surface.