Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rocky road for bridge's future

Councillor raises issue of moving CP yards in light of pricey repairs

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The deteriorating condition of the Arlington Bridge has sparked a renewed call to move the Canadian Pacific Railway yards.

On Friday, the city released a report that reveals the bridge is "functionally obsolete" and cannot be fully rehabilitated.

The city has spent $15 million to repair the bridge in the last decade because the structural steel on an approach ramp has deteriorated.

The city will close the overpass for six weeks in July and August when the bridge deck undergoes extensive repairs.

The city plans to replace or decommission the bridge by 2020 and it will launch a design study this year to determine whether it makes sense to replace the bridge at the same location, a different location, or improve other routes so the Arlington Bridge can be removed.

Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) said the city needs to start work on the design study quickly, and also have a serious discussion about the future of the CP yards. Vandal said moving the yards has never been more than a "pipe dream" but it may be time to see if it can be done. The 130-year-old yards run between Main Street and McPhillips Street and separate a swath of the North End from neighbourhoods south of the tracks.

"Ideally, everyone would like to see the rail yards gone, moved outside the city, and have that land available for development and recreation, and you wouldn't have to build another bridge," Vandal said. "I think we need to have a discussion about that. Now's the time to do it."

Winnipeg seriously considered moving the rail yards in the 1970s, but the idea was shelved after several years of political wrangling among three levels of government over the costs of relocation. Since then, there has been little progress. There have been no recent estimates on how much it would cost to relocate the yards and remediate and redevelop the land.

Meanwhile, cities such as Edmonton and Montreal have successfully redeveloped their rail yards, and work is underway in Regina to do the same.

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg executive director Dennis Lewycky said the Arlington Bridge could be a catalyst for the rail-yard redevelopment, particularly if the city offers CP the money it would otherwise spend on building a new bridge. He said railway officials know various levels of government are interested in the idea since other major cities have moved rail yards.

Last year, the council tried to generate political interest in examining the issue and offered to examine what could be built there and how much it might cost.

CP Rail spokesman Kevin Hrysak said Friday the firm has no intention of moving the yards outside the city.

"It's going to take political will," Lewycky said.

Other members of city council say Winnipeg should focus on what it can control: building a new bridge.

Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), whose ward includes the Arlington Bridge, said city politicians have talked about doing something with the rail yards during his 11 years on council, and he does not think anything will happen by the time Winnipeg has to decommission or replace the bridge. Pagtakhan said the structure is an important link between the inner city and the North End. He would like to see a new bridge accommodate transit buses and walking and cycling paths.

Pagtakhan said building a new bridge would not hamper future efforts to redevelop the rail yards.

"We can continue to talk about it, but at the end of the day between now and 2020 I don't believe it's going to happen," he said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca


Arlington Bridge

Built: 1910/1911;

Traffic: 15,400 vehicles travel on the bridge a day;

Annual maintenance cost: $1.5 million. Set to be closed for extensive repairs for six weeks this summer;

Current condition: Poor;

What's going to happen with the bridge? The city plans to replace or decommission the bridge by 2020. This year, Winnipeg will start a design study to see whether it makes sense to replace the bridge in the same spot, a different spot, or improve other routes so the overpass can be removed.

-- source: City of Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 A3

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