Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Last stand against transit route

Residents fight Parker plan

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People living near the Parker Lands are mounting a last-ditch effort to convince city council not to route the second leg of the Southwest Transitway around Fort Garry neighbourhoods.

This morning, city council will vote on whether to extend the second phase of the rapid-transit corridor west through the Parker Lands, then southeast along a Manitoba Hydro corridor. The city examined installing a busway south along the Canadian National rail line west of Pembina but determined the dogleg route will have less impact on traffic and allow buses to travel faster because there are fewer road crossings and fewer expropriations needed.

The Parker route also ranked higher due to its ability to attract more riders from future transit-oriented development in the Parker Lands.

If approved, the city will move ahead with a more detailed study of the alignment.

Parker Wetlands Conservation spokesman and area resident Cal Dueck said he hopes city council will consider studying both alignment options in case problems arise with the Parker route. He said Winnipeg has not considered the impact of building a transitway around natural lands in the area nor calculated the cost of draining wetlands to make way for future development.

The city did not conduct a formal assessment of the Parker Lands under its Ecologically Significant Natural Land Strategy before it traded land north of Parker Avenue to developer Andrew Marquess in 2009 to build infill housing. The area includes aspen forest, grassland and wetlands.

A recent city report said Winnipeg may need to buy back part of the Gem Equities-owned Parker Lands for the alignment of the transitway. City officials said the extent of the land requirements will not be known until further study takes place.

Dueck said there is a "phenomenal" amount of water retained in the area and Winnipeg should do a detailed design study on both alignment options before it decides which is better.

"The cost of draining it will be astronomical," Dueck said. "It seems to me a little bit backwards to go ahead with one route without knowing the answers."

Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said experts have already examined both alignment options and selected Parker as the best route. He said the functional design study will examine the cost and the impact of extending the second leg of the busway through the Parker Lands, noting it's too early to say whether Winnipeg will need to drain water from the area.

"We're going to hire a bunch of professional engineers that are going to look at exactly where it's going to go and whether it's necessary to drain the lands," Vandal said. "We've had experts looking at this from the start and this is their best recommendation."

City of Winnipeg spokeswoman Alissa Clark said in an email the city conducted a preliminary habitat assessment of native species in the area in 1995, which was updated in 2002. She said the city will conduct a further environmental review if the Parker route is approved by council, including an assessment of whether any wet portion of the Parker lands need to be drained.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Mayes wants review of snow-zone plan

Plow problems at city hall: St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes wants Winnipeg to review how well its snow-zone program is working.

The city implemented its new snow-zone program in November and crews have 12 hours to complete plowing in a designated snow zone. The city tickets or tows residents who do not move their vehicles during the scheduled zone cleanup.

Mayes said his office received about 50 complaints following the city's plow operation earlier this month. He said some residents who moved their cars complained plows never showed up during the designated 12-hour time slot. Residents moved their cars back and received a ticket when plows cleared the street 48 hours later, he said.

In other cases, Mayes said plows missed streets or the quality of the snow removal was "terrible."

He wants Winnipeg to review how often crews are able to clear snow from a designated zone in a 12-hour period.

Winnipeg has budgeted about $26 million for snow-clearing this year. City officials have said it will cost the city about $1 million to clear streets from this week's snowstorm.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2013 B1

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