Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

All aboard the stadium bus

U of M is next transitway stop

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No sooner than council decides where to place the second leg of the Southwest Transitway, Winnipeg will have another issue on its hands: how to connect the new bus corridor with the new football stadium.

On Wednesday, city council is poised to approve a plan to complete the Southwest Transitway by routing it around Fort Garry residential neighbourhoods -- the so-called Parker dogleg -- instead of heading south alongside CN Rail's Letellier line, parallel to Pembina Highway.

Once that choice is made, Winnipeg Transit will be faced with yet another alignment decision, this time involving the precise routing of buses from the southernmost portion of the new transit corridor to Investors Group Field, on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

In January, an alignment study by Dillon Consulting and Stevenson Advisors looked at four means of moving buses from the future bus corridor, across Pembina Highway and onto the university campus.

The study found the most direct and least expensive route involves moving buses off the transitway at Markham Road, taking them across Pembina Highway -- using an upgraded traffic signal -- and running them across the currently vacant land that once belonged to the Southwood Golf Course.

There are no land-acquisition costs for this option, as the U of M owns the Southwood land, which it plans to redevelop into a transit-oriented neighbourhood with new apartments, condos and businesses.

The U of M is eager to see the city endorse the Markham option. "What the university is looking to see is BRT (bus rapid transit) coming through the Southwood precinct," U of M spokesman John Danakas said.

The university, which is in the midst of selecting a firm to design the new development, is eager to settle upon a precise route for the last link in the Southwest Transitway.

"We're aware of their perspective," Winnipeg Transit director Dave Wardrop said of the university, which has communicated its preference for the Markham/Southwood alignment.

"There's no question that's a very plausible approach and one of the favoured candidates. We just have to sit down and formally establish that before we proceed with the functional design."

The Dillon/Stevenson study looked at three other potential connections from the main busway to an Investors Group Field terminus dubbed Stadium Station.

One other feasible option would run along Chancellor Matheson Road, the main entrance to the university. Another would squeeze between two Pembina Highway shopping malls and then through the Southwood lands, but would require the acquisition and demolition of an apartment block. The study concluded it would cost up to $40 million to complete the route by extending a dedicated busway along University Crescent.

St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, who represents the U of M, has suggested a fifth option: forget about extending the transitway any farther south than Bishop Grandin Boulevard and use existing roads to get buses onto the university campus.

Swandel said University Crescent could carry buses south while most motor-vehicle traffic could enter the main campus via a new road through the Southwood lands.

"One of the greatest home runs they could hit is to rethink what they do at University Crescent," he said, fearing city officials have already made up their minds.

Wardrop, however, said Winnipeg Transit is amenable to the idea of concluding the main body of the transitway before Bison Drive, if that's what makes the most sense.

Regardless of the final route, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are eager to see the day when the transitway can bring buses right up to Stadium Station, making access to Investors Group Field easier.

"There's lots that can be done in a very efficient way for all concerned, once rapid transit becomes a reality. That will be a game-changer for everyone," said Jim Bell, the Winnipeg Football Club's vice-president and chief operations officer.

Another decision needed

Options on the table to allow bus access from the Southwest Transitway to Stadium Station on the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus:

1. Bison Drive

Length: Two kilometres

Route: From CN Letellier corridor along Bison Drive and Chancellor Matheson Road

Cost: Up to $25 million

Analysis: Possible, although this is the longest and most indirect route

2. Markham Road

Length: 1.05 kilometres

Route: From CN Letellier corridor along Markham Road to Pembina and then through former Southwood Golf Course land

Cost: Up to $18 million

Analysis: Desirable, as this is the shortest and least expensive route, aided by ease of access through Southwood land

3. Thatcher Drive

Length: 1.07 kilometres

Route: From CN Letellier corridor, between two shopping complexes to Pembina Highway and then through Southwood land

Cost: Up to $35 million

Analysis: Unfeasible, due to need to expropriate a major apartment complex

4. University Crescent

Length: 1.49 kilometres

Route: From CN Letellier along new bus corridor constructed on University Crescent

Cost: Up to $40 million

Analysis: Very difficult, due to engineering challenge involved in building busway close to existing structures and embankments

source: City of Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 15, 2013 B1

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