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Transit funding gets go-ahead from council

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Residents will not get a chance to vote in a plebiscite on bus rapid transit, city council decided Wednesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Residents will not get a chance to vote in a plebiscite on bus rapid transit, city council decided Wednesday. Photo Store

The completion of the Southwest Transitway has cleared two hurdles at city hall, as council approved a funding deal for the project and rejected a call for an October plebiscite.

Council voted 9-6 on Wednesday to approve a $590-million funding deal to extend the Southwest Transitway to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus and widen the Pembina Highway underpass at Jubilee Avenue.

The deal calls for the city and province to commit $225 million each, with Ottawa providing the remaining funds through a fund devoted to public-private partnerships.

The deal only passed narrowly, as some members of council opposed the cost and others were skeptical of the route and the business plan.

Couns. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Scott Fielding (St. James-Brooklands), Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo), John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) and Russ Wyatt (Transcona) voted against the deal.

St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal was absent for the late-afternoon vote, due to a ward commitment.

Earlier in the meeting, in a more decisive 13-3 vote, council killed a call for a non-binding ballot-box question on the $590-million.

Browaty and Fielding authored a motion to hold the non-binding referendum, insisting the rapid-transit money should be spent on roads instead. 

But a majority of council rejected the idea, albeit for a variety of reasons. Swandel, who opposed the funding for the transitway, rejected a plebiscite because he said council must lead on major decisions.

St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes decried the motion as misleading, claiming a preamble about funding for roads would have led voters to reject the transitway.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, a transit proponent, said it's embarrassing Winnipeg is still debating rapid transit decades after the Southwest Transitway was first envisioned.

In the end, only Browaty, Fielding and Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt voted for the plebiscite.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 5:33 PM CDT: Updates with full write-thru.

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