SASKATOON – Creating rapid transit, adding a bridge and developing specific areas of Saskatoon will help the city handle the population growth it’s expected to experience over the next 30 years, according to a plan set to go before council next Monday.
The final “Growth Plan to Half a Million” was presented to reporters Wednesday morning. Officials say Saskatoon is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities and the blueprint will help guide planners as more people relocate to the area.
“If we don’t take, you know, the necessary measures to change how we move around in the city, we’re going to experience a lot of difficulty,” said Alan Wallace, the city’s planning and development director.
The plan focuses on accommodating growth, transit services and the city’s bridges. Officials say the extra 250,000 people will live across Saskatoon, in a mix of existing and potential neighbourhoods.
“Right now we’re quite reliant on growth outside of Circle Drive and there’s just many opportunities inside Circle Drive,” said Wallace.
Underdeveloped areas of downtown Saskatoon and agriculture land near the University of Saskatchewan are two regions officials say thousands of residents could reside in.
“When you’re talking about over a thousand acres of green field development land inside Circle Drive, you want to encourage that to happen,” said Wallace.
“It’s just like having two full neighbourhoods inside Circle Drive.”
To get around a city with double the current population of Saskatoon, officials are proposing a rapid bus transit service that they said will hopefully increase ridership. Two bus lines would eventually be developed, one moving north to south and the other east to west, with a five-minute frequency along the routes.
City officials also said they envision a bridge, connecting 33rd Street with Preston Crossing. However they added that it likely wouldn’t be necessary for at least a decade.
However, the community growth laid out in the city’s plan is not certain, according to Kent Smith-Windsor, the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. He said the group generally supports the plan’s content, but added that growth relied on future business prosperity.
“It’s unpredictable even 10 years from now, let alone thirty years from now, as to what will be the business growth drivers of Saskatoon,” said Smith-Windsor.