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City councillor's petition to abandon rapid transit funding sees "overwhelming" support

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Coun. Scott Fielding says the number of people who’ve signed his online petition is proof of "overwhelming" support from Winnipeggers that city hall should abandon the second phase of the dedicated bus corridor.

Fielding said more than 1,700 people have signed his petition since he launched it over a week ago, adding it demonstrates that residents prefer the city’s priority should be repairing existing streets before launching a mega-project like the dedicated bus corridor linking the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus to the downtown.

"It’s a pretty impressive number," said Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) of those who signed the petition.

Fielding, who is considering a run for mayor in the Oct. 22 election, has never supported funding for rapid transit and voted against both the first and second phases of the corridor that will link downtown with the University of Manitoba campus.

The 3.6-kilometre first phase of the bus corridor, which runs from Queen Elizabeth Way near the Forks to Jubilee Avenue near Pembina Highway, opened in April 2012 at a cost of $138 million.

Fielding described the seven-kilometre second phase of the dedicated bus corridor, which links Jubilee Avenue to the U of M, as a $600-million project. However, the bus corridor accounts for $425 million of that price tag; $105 million is allocated for the reconstruction of the Jubilee Underpass; and, $70 million is for related sewer drainage work.

The city is responsible for only $225 million of the total cost. The province has agreed to contribute $225 million. City hall is asking Ottawa to contribute the remaining $150 million.

However, another potential candidate for mayor accused Fielding of manipulating the project’s budget to drum up opposition to it.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck, who, like Fielding, is a right-of-centre politician, said the city’s share of $225 million is far less than the $600 million price tag, adding the remaining $375 million from the province and Ottawa would only be spent if the project goes ahead.

Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said the bus corridor and road maintenance should not be presented as an either-or option, adding Winnipeg needs both.

"We need progressive thinking in our city," Havixbeck said. "We are so far behind other cities in terms of our ability to move people and goods more effectively and expeditiously throughout the city."

While the petition has attracted the support of about 195 people daily since it was launched March 27, Fielding said he’s not interested in learning how many people oppose his notion that the bus corridor should be abandoned.

Fielding said he’ll maintain the petition, which is available at his website scottfielding.ca, until election day, adding his goal is to persuade council to make the dispute a referendum added to the election ballot.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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