Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New road link first part of plan for global hub

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A new road and cloverleaf linking Winnipeg's airport to the west Perimeter Highway is the first stage of a massive plan to turn the city into a global transportation hub, officials said this week.

That road, running between and almost parallel to Oak Point Highway to the north and Saskatchewan Avenue to the south, will connect the CentrePort project near the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport to the west Perimeter Highway.

Officials close to the CentrePort project believe that road is being considered by the Harper government in its new budget. If so, construction could begin in the next two years. The CentrePort project was the only one of its kind in Canada highlighted in the federal budget.

"We have a lot of potential going for us," Manitoba's Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux said. "But we don't have a real breakdown of the federal budget."

That means the province and CentrePort are still waiting to find out from Ottawa how much in new funding is coming Manitoba's way for the CentrePort road project.

"We are looking at the road, sewer, bridges and rail upgrades necessary to make it a viable enterprise," Winnipeg MP Steven Fletcher (C--Charleswood-St. James) said in Ottawa, noting specific details of the accelerated funding for CentrePort are still being worked out.

Fletcher said Tuesday's federal budget delivers $4.5 billion in infrastructure funding to Manitoba this year and in the five following fiscal years.

The CentrePort plan calls for the 20,000-acre area northwest of the airport to be turned into a massive trucking and rail depot linked to runways and aircraft coming and going from all over the globe.

But Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz said he is not certain whether CentrePort can access federal funds within the two-year federal deadline.

"That's the question. I'm hoping we can. We have to talk to everybody to find out whether that's realistic."

Manitoba Heavy Construction Association president Chris Lorenc said there should not be any problem finding companies and labour to do the work.

"The industry is going to be hungrier for work than it may have been in the last year or two," said Lorenc, who also sits on CentrePort's board. "These kinds of announcements have a positive effect on the industry, and that spurs more investment."

Barry Rempel, president and CEO for the Winnipeg Airports Authority, said the new road and cloverleaf on the west Perimeter Highway is intended to flow truck traffic in and out of the area around the airport and take pressure off truck routes in the city.

Future plans include realigning the Canadian Pacific Railway line that runs though the area so it is closer to CentrePort.

Lemieux said one plan includes linking the new road and cloverleaf on the west Perimeter to a north bypass route around Headingley.


Ottawa and the province have already announced:

$85 million for improvements to Highway 75, Manitoba's key highway to United States.

$68 million for the partial twinning of Oak Point Highway/Inkster Boulevard to the west Perimeter.

$68 million for upgrades to the Hudson Bay rail line and the port of Churchill -- $48 million from the federal and provincial governments and $20 million from the Hudson Bay Rail Co.

$55 million for an interchange and rail grade separation at the junction of the Trans-Canada Highway and Yellowhead Highway near Portage la Prairie.

-- With files from Bartley Kives and Mia Rabson

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2009 A4

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