Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Harper in town for CentrePort event; no plans to hit campaign trail

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks with Jets owner Mark Chipman at the Jets game.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Prime Minister Stephen Harper talks with Jets owner Mark Chipman at the Jets game. Photo Store

Prime Minister Stephen Harper landed in Winnipeg Thursday to open the first section of the new CentrePort Canada Expressway to its first trucks.

The Prime Minister's Office said Thursday Harper will be joined today by Premier Greg Selinger and Diane Gray, CentrePort's president and CEO, and senior Manitoba MP Shelly Glover. The morning event includes a tour of Fort Garry Fire Trucks.

CentrePort is the 8,093-hectare inland port and transportation hub being developed northwest of the airport. The $212.5-million expressway, off the west Perimeter Highway, is designed to handle more transport trucks and wider access to the CentrePort development. The expressway will also give businesses quicker, more efficient access to national and international highways and railways to move goods.

Construction has involved an overpass at the Perimeter Highway north of Saskatchewan Avenue and a 10-kilometre expressway extending from the Perimeter to Route 90. Work on that section continues.

When finished, the roadway is expected to see about 4,000 vehicles a day travelling on and off the expressway at the Perimeter Highway and another 15,000 vehicles at Route 90. The expressway is to provide a faster route for truck and commuter traffic and alleviate existing traffic congestion on Inkster Boulevard.

The Conservatives announced Harper's visit to Winnipeg after a morning of rumours he would campaign in Brandon-Souris, where the Tories are in the midst of a surprisingly close byelection. Polls suggest the Liberals could steal the Tory stronghold on Monday, which would be a major blow for the Tories, already embattled by the Senate spending scandal.

Harper will not be visiting Provencher or Brandon, but his Winnipeg visit is widely seen as a way to bolster his Brandon base the weekend before the vote. Conservative candidate Larry Maguire has been hammering home the value of the new Canada-European trade deal and Manitoba's ability to export agricultural and livestock products to new markets.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have visited both ridings, but Harper has not.

The Selinger government said in its recent throne speech the next phase of CentrePort is building a new bypass around Headingley to extend the CentrePort expressway. The bypass would also reduce the number of trucks passing through Headingley and enhance road safety.

The bypass will not be announced until the new federal Building Canada Fund for major infrastructure projects is formalized.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2013 A7

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Updated on Friday, November 22, 2013 at 7:48 PM CST: Corrects typo in photo caption.

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