With its pre-budget, five-year infrastructure plan in hand, the province is charging ahead with plans to build the Headingley bypass extension of CentrePort Canada Way.
Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said there is a real determination to get the 14-kilometre, $150-million extension built over the next five years.
"This is hugely important," Ashton said. "Our goal is to get it significantly under construction in the next five years. And we are able to do it because we have a five-year capital plan. We have taken a project that was scoped out for 25 or 30 years and it's now going to be moved to within the next five years."
The bypass will create a much safer traffic environment, industry officials said. Currently, the Trans-Canada Highway through Headingley carries about 19,000 cars per day, a very heavy load by Manitoba standards.
A Headingley bypass was always envisioned as part of CentrePort Canada Way, the 9.1-kilometre, $212-million four-lane highway that opened in November.
That roadway links Inkster Boulevard near Brookside Boulevard diagonally to the west Perimeter Highway.
The cloverleaf at the west Perimeter built for CentrePort Canada Way will be utilized for the Headingley bypass, which will funnel traffic north of Headingley and link back up with the Trans-Canada near the St. Francis Xavier cut-off.
Ashton stressed this project is getting top priority and land acquisition and detailed engineering will commence shortly.
"This is not a study, it's a plan," he said. "We will get the land assigned in an engineering sense and start construction and complete it in an expeditious fashion."
Most of the land required is in private hands, and public consultations will be held. The Department of National Defence owns a rifle range on the proposed route, and Ashton said the province will work co-operatively with the federal government to find a suitable place to relocate the range.
It's not certain yet what the speed limit on the bypass will be, but Ashton said it will be more than the current 70 kilometres per hour on the stretch of Trans-Canada through Headingley.
Although provincial funds have been budgeted for the project, the province will still have to apply for federal assistance through the Building Canada Fund, which is open for applications at the end of this month.
Steven Fletcher, federal MP for the area, said this project would likely be eligible for support.
A significant impetus for the new roadway developments in the northwest and west side of the city is a desire to ease the strain of intense truck traffic in the region and it is designed to ensure unimpeded truck-traffic access to highways in and out of the city.
Diane Gray, CEO of CentrePort Canada, said about 70 per cent of the truck traffic in the capital region happens in that area.
She said the new roadways will enhance the attractiveness of inbound investment at CentrePort in that it will make for noticeably more efficient traffic flows.
"One of the things we have learned about trucking-intensive businesses is that, particularly with U.S.-based site selectors, they often look for five minutes to 55 miles per hour (90 kilometres per hour) as a rule of thumb for siting large-scale, truck-intensive businesses," Gray said. "So the ability to offer that not just to the Perimeter Highway but beyond to the Trans-Canada is absolutely fundamental to our ability to sell that effectively."
In addition to traffic-flow efficiencies, the new roadway will create for the trucking and transportation industry -- which provides the backbone for $15 billion worth of annual two-way trade between Manitoba and the three western provinces -- there is also a strong safety aspect to this roadway.
Mike Mager, president and CEO of CAA Manitoba said, "There have been two or three deaths in the past couple of years on that stretch of the Trans-Canada (through Headingley). The reality is they have to fix it. Building the bypass will take some of the bigger trucks off the road."
He said current work on dividing the Trans-Canada through Headingley will also help.
Terry Shaw, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association, agreed the bypass will be a strong safety upgrade but it also means truckers will have an option.
"If for some reason there is an incident that limits access to one of those roads, industry does not have to shut down," Shaw said.