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Council OK's transitway jog through Parker lands

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Against the objections of councillors representing southwest Winnipeg, the Southwest Transitway will be routed around Fort Garry residential neighbourhoods instead of running parallel to Pembina Highway.

City council voted 11-5 Wednesday to approve the "Parker dogleg" alignment in completing the city's first dedicated bus corridor, which currently runs 3.6 kilometres from Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks to Jubilee Avenue near Pembina Highway.

The second phase will run west along the southern edge of the undeveloped Parker lands, then jog south alongside a Manitoba Hydro corridor. It will join up with CN Rail's Letellier corridor, a right-of-way that runs west of Pembina Highway, before terminating at or near the University of Manitoba.

A study commissioned by Winnipeg Transit concluded the dogleg will require less property expropriation and will stimulate more commercial development, especially in the Parker lands.

"We've landed on what the experts have recommended as one of the options. Now the due diligence actually starts," Mayor Sam Katz said following the vote.

Three southwest Winnipeg councillors opposed the dogleg -- John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), Justin Swandel (St. Norbert) and Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) -- as well as Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre).

Swandel and Orlikow questioned council's interpretation of the transit study, insisting far more development could be stimulated along Pembina Highway by running the Southwest Transitway straight down the CN Letellier corridor.

"This thing's basically over, but it just doesn't make sense to me to throw away that much value and that much opportunity," said Swandel, adding vacant land along the first phase of the transitway remains undeveloped. "You could look at the Fort Rouge Yards lands and they're still untouched."

Havixbeck argued the city is about to make a $350-million gamble on extending a rapid-transit line before it finds out whether the $138-million first phase encouraged more Winnipeggers to use transit.

Public works chairman Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) countered it's silly to question the value of rapid transit and suggested the completion of the Southwest Transitway, now targeted for 2018 at the earliest, will happen more than 40 years after the bus corridor was originally proposed.

Winnipeg Transit will now begin detailed design and engineering to prepare the second transitway phase. While the city plans to borrow $137.5 million to begin building the transitway next year, no funding deal has been reached with the province and Ottawa.

The Selinger provincial government is committed to a third of the tab, or $116.7 million, and the city is counting on $137.5 million. The city hopes Ottawa will contribute the remaining $75 million through a fund for public-private partnerships.

Meanwhile, residents near the partly wooded Parker lands say they will continue to fight the development of the area, assessed as pristine or near-pristine by the city naturalist in 2000.

"We want people to know this isn't over," said Cal Dueck, who failed to persuade councillors to change their minds Wednesday. "They're sitting in their ivory towers."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2013 B2

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