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Bus corridor moving forward

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A rapid-transit bus enters Osborne Station. Winnipeg Transit says the second leg of the bus corridor should run west of Pembina Highway to Bison Drive.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

A rapid-transit bus enters Osborne Station. Winnipeg Transit says the second leg of the bus corridor should run west of Pembina Highway to Bison Drive. Photo Store

The dedicated bus corridor project passed another hurdle at city hall Tuesday, even as opponents continue to question its financing, its route and its impact on the environment.

The public works committee endorsed the business plan and construction method for the $590-million project, which will go to council for final approval later this month.

"There is a time where you have to do something that is a tough decision and I think the members of this council have to do that now," Coun. Jenny Gerbasi said as she defended her vote on the project. "We cannot be a city without mass transit -- it's just wrong, morally wrong."

The hearing was required under provincial legislation when city hall proposed the second stage of the seven-kilometre bus corridor be constructed as a public-private partnership, with a yet-to-be-chosen contractor designing, building and maintaining the corridor.

Very few of the comments from the public dealt with the public-private aspect of the project. Instead, the opponents' focus was on parts of the plan settled long ago by city hall -- the curious route through vacant land and the impact on sensitive wetlands.

The application for federal funding requires council approval, and securing that vote won't be easy. There could be as many as six councillors who will vote against the project and they would need only two more votes to scuttle it.

While the project was approved by the committee, its chairman, Coun. Justin Swandel, voted against the proposal.

Swandel (St. Norbert) said he never supported the route through the wetlands and wants the project delayed until the city can study the feasibility of removing the CNR Letellier rail line.

Coun. John Orlikow, who is not a member of the committee, told the hearing he supports rapid transit but added he's not convinced by the proposal.

Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said he supports a direct route along Pembina Highway, and the project will cost $1 billion over 30 years and council has not decided how it will pay for its share.

"Deciding to spend money without knowing how you're going to pay for it is irresponsible," Orlikow said.

Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said delaying the project for a better route would risk the city losing $140 million in federal funding and could push back the corridor for years.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 4, 2014 B2

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