Winnipeg’s mayor says city council is committed to completing the second phase of the bus transit corridor.
Sam Katz said he’s puzzled by the recent allegations from finance chairman Russ Wyatt that the project is being changed with resulting cost increases.
"We know what the numbers are, there haven’t been any changes," Katz said, adding however the $600-million estimate for the project has been revised downwards to $590 million.
Katz said despite Wyatt’s concerns and a lobby effort by Coun. Scott Fielding to scrap the project, the bus corridor will be completed.
"I do believe that council will concur it’s time to move forward," Katz told reporters this morning.
The province and the city have committed to spend $225 million each on the $600-million project, with Ottawa yet to commit to $150 million.
The project originally began as a $350-million dedicated bus corridor route linking the completed first phase to the University of Manitoba campus.
The project was expanded to include the reconstruction of the Jubilee underpass ($105 million) and nearby sewer and drainage work ($70 million). The bus corridor portion of the project is now estimated to cost $425 million.
Katz acknowledged he always preferred light rail to a dedicated bus route, but added that a study concluded bus is best for Winnipeg now.
Katz said when conditions are right, the bus corridor can be converted to accommodate light rail transportation – but that time isn’t now.
However, Wyatt said he remains convinced that design changes are planned for the bus corridor which will drive up its costs.
Wyatt (Transcona) said Winnipeg is growing faster than had been predicted, adding it’s time to weigh the benefits of changing the bus corridor to light rail.
Wyatt said securing financing for light rail would be easier than that for bus, adding a light rail system could be designed, built and operated by a manufacturer, with the costs to the city amortized over decades.
Katz said that while city hall is still struggling with how to come up with its $225 million share of the project, light rail would cost more than $1.5 billion.
"The money is not there to do (light rail) regardless, at this stage of the game," Katz said.
Both Katz and Wyatt said they were looking forward to an administrative report on the bus corridor project – Wyatt said it should be presented at Thursday’s finance committee meeting; Katz said the report, if ready, will be presented to all members of council at a special seminar Friday.