Political opposition is growing to complete Winnipeg’s southwest bus corridor.
Coun. Jeff Browaty said this morning he won’t support the completion of the bus corridor unless it’s put to a referendum in the fall election.
"I honestly don’t think it’s our best value for almost $600 million," Browaty (North Kildonan) said, adding several of the city’s other transportation needs should warrant a higher priority and can be funded with all the funds allocated for the bus corridor, citing the westward extension of the Chief Peguis trail, widening of Kenaston Boulevard and the Waverley underpass.
"Everyone of them provides a better value for money than rapid transit phase two."
Browaty joins St. James-Brooksland councillor Scott Fielding in opposition to the project.
The city is preparing a formal request for $140 million in federal funding for the project but Browaty said that request should be put on hold.
Browaty said he favours a non-binding plebiscite or referendum be included in the Oct. 22 civic election ballot, asking Winnipeggers if they support the completion of the rapid transit project, adding he’s prepared to move a motion at next week’s council meeting to put that into place.
Browaty’s concerns come a day after the civic administration released a detailed report on the $590-million bus rapid transit corridor, which needs to be endorsed by council at its June meeting before Ottawa will consider the application for financial assistance.
The latest report says the city will have to pay $20 million a year for 30 years beginning in 2020, for its share of the project.
Browaty said $20 million is the equivalent of a four per cent property tax increase, adding he can’t support allocating that amount of money to the project.
"$20 million a year – that’s going to come out of local streets, regional streets," Browaty said. "Where are you going to find $20 million a year?"
Browaty also questioned why a $70-million drainage project was removed from the overall bus corridor project, adding the final price tag for the overall project has not changed.
Another concern Browaty cited is the design of the corridor’s link to the University of Manitoba campus. The plan does not provide for an underpass or overpass to cross Pembina Highway, resulting in buses having to wait at a controlled intersection before crossing seven lanes of traffic.
"I think that’s a significant flaw in the current proposal," Browaty said.
Both Fielding and Browaty have focused on the $590 million price tag, ignoring that the bus corridor portion of the project is now estimated to cost $407.8 million, with that amount cost-shared with the province and Ottawa.
The remainder of the bundled project includes reconstruction and expansion of the Jubilee underpass ($72.5 million), associated drainage work ($39.8 million) and a construction contingency of $69.4 million.
The province and city will each contribute $225 million and Ottawa, if it approves, $140 million.
The report said to cover the $20 million annual payments, the city could increase property taxes, raise bus fares, take the funds from existing revenues, or a combination of all three.