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Transitway delayed two years

Property-tax hike may be required for $590-M megaproject

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A rapid transit bus arrives at the Osborne Street Station on the opening day of the Southwest Transitway in 2012. Completion of the Southwest Transitway/Pembina underpass project has been delayed until 2020.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

A rapid transit bus arrives at the Osborne Street Station on the opening day of the Southwest Transitway in 2012. Completion of the Southwest Transitway/Pembina underpass project has been delayed until 2020. Photo Store

The completion of the $590-million Southwest Transitway/Pembina underpass megaproject has been pushed back to 2020 — and may require the city to raise property taxes in order to pay for it.

In a report Tuesday, Winnipeg Transit says it will take an additional two years to complete a construction project that involves the widening of the Pembina Highway underpass below Jubilee Avenue and the extension of the Southwest Transitway to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

The megaproject was originally supposed to include a third component, an East Fort Garry drainage improvement known as the Cockburn-Calrossie combined-sewer relief project. Winnipeg Transit says that component will be "a larger and separately funded project being carried out by the water and waste department."

The city and province still plan to spend $225 million each on the project, with Ottawa expected to provide $140 million under a federal fund reserved for public-private partnerships.

The city has $4.2 million in cash reserved toward the project. It expects to incur $221 million in debt and begin paying off that construction debt at a rate of $19.7 million a year once the project is finished in 2020.

How to pay off that debt "will need to be addressed and identified during the 2015 budget process," transit officials warn in their report.

"There are several funding options that could be applied, including the allocation of cash-to-capital funding, a property tax increase, a transit fare increase, or a combination of these options," they wrote.

For the first time, transit officials also confirmed the transitway will terminate at Markham Road, not Bison Drive, and will allow buses to access the U of M campus through a new transit spur line that will run along Southpark Drive and through the former Southwood golf course land.

The transitway project now calls for the construction of nine new rapid-transit stations, a new overpass over Pembina Highway, an underpass below the CN Letellier rail lines near Jubilee Avenue, an overpass over McGillivray Boulevard, a transit tunnel below the CN Letellier line near Chevrier Boulevard and an overpass over Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

Both the McGillivray overpass and the tunnel near Chevrier had been previously disclosed. Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt has complained about the addition of bridges to the project.

The transitway extension calls for a new CN rail crossing over Bishop Grandin and rail-line relocations near Jubilee Avenue and on the stretch between Plaza Drive and Markham Road.

A noise-blocking wall will be built to protect residents of Waverley Heights, the report said. St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel has expressed concern about the movement of rail lines near residential homes in his ward.

Transit proponents, meanwhile, are taken aback the work is no longer expected to be completed in 2018.

"I'm disappointed it's being pushed back a couple of years, but I think it's something we need to move on, pending due diligence as it moves through committees," said St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal.

He wonders why the Cockburn-Calrossie drain was dropped from the project that was supposed to involve three components. The drainage project, the Pembina underpass and the transitway were packaged together to reduce traffic disruptions in Fort Garry. "That is not how this was sold to us," Vandal said.

Council's public works committee will review the report June 3.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca, aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2014 B1

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