The second phase of the Southwest Transitway will likely jog around Fort Garry residential neighbourhoods, as Winnipeg Transit is poised to recommend the dogleg option over a more direct route closer to Pembina Highway.
At a closed-door seminar on Friday, city councillors were told the results of an alignment study that concluded there are more logistical, financial and transportation benefits to completing the Southwest Transitway by running it west through the Parker lands and then south along a Manitoba Hydro corridor.
In April, the city opened the transitway's first phase, a 3.6-kilometre bus corridor between Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks and Jubilee Avenue near Pembina Highway. Winnipeg Transit enlisted Dillon Consulting to help decide upon an alignment for a second phase that will eventually extend the corridor to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.
Three options were considered: the six-kilometre Letellier route, which would run alongside a rail line west of Pembina; and two variations of a seven-kilometre Manitoba Hydro route that would run west through Parker and then south along the Hydro corridor that separates the Fort Garry Industrial Park from the Beaumont and Maybank neighbourhoods.
Councillors were told the dogleg option is superior because it would involve less traffic disruption, higher operating speeds and no need to relocate the CN Letellier line. The western route also has more room for new housing developments that could generate property taxes to offset construction costs.
"Time-wise, they're suggesting it's almost a wash," said council property director Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan). Concerns about the potential for reduced transit service for businesses and apartments along Pembina Highway were tempered by the fact a large stretch of the Letellier option would also place the corridor 400 metres west of Pembina Highway.
"We're not going to be discontinuing transit service on Pembina," he said, adding it is too soon for riders to grow concerned about service changes resulting from a transitway that currently has no funding source.
"This is very much a futile discussion at this point," said Browaty, referring to the absence of a funding deal between the city and the province. "The money is not there and even if it was there, I'm not sure (the Southwest Transitway's second phase) is a priority for us."
Browaty said the city may want to focus its rapid-transit attention on beginning an East Transitway that would connect downtown to Transcona. Decades of city transportation studies have recommended this link as the city's No. 2 rapid-transit priority, after the completion of the Southwest Transitway.
Council is committed to completing the second phase of the southwest corridor in three years. The selection of an alignment for the second phase would allow detailed design work to proceed. But there is little cash available for construction, as a previous federal-provincial offer of $126 million toward the project was withdrawn after Mayor Sam Katz declined the cash, noting the total project cost would be at least $270 million.
Katz subsequently sent the Selinger government a letter suggesting a variety of new revenue streams that could help the city fund infrastructure projects such as rapid transit.
"We sent all these great ideas for the province to look at and explore to fund the rapid transit. And each and every time we got the same answer: No, no, no, no, no," Katz said last week. "There is no real money on the table."
Katz said the city will not borrow money to pay for the Southwest Transitway's second phase, noting the city borrowed to pay for the first phase and also borrowed the cash for the province's share.
"We're the ones who put up the money for the province and they are still paying us back and it's debt on our books," Katz said.
Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said Friday the province is frustrated with the city's position.
A rapid-transit choice
The pros and cons of the two alignment possibilities for the second leg of the Southwest Transitway, which would extend the existing busway from Jubilee Avenue to the University of Manitoba campus. Both routes would be the same south of the Sugar Beet lands at Chevrier Boulevard:
1. Manitoba Hydro 'dogleg'
Route: West from Pembina Highway through the Parker neighbourhood, then south along the Manitoba Hydro right-of-way that separates the Fort Garry Industrial Park from the Beaumont and Maybank neighbourhoods
Length: Seven to 7.5 kilometres, depending on whether it runs straight through the vacant Parker lands or loops around the northern end of the wooded area
Width: 753 to 774 metres, including room for a bike-and-pedestrian path
Maximum speed: 80 km/h
New infrastructure required: One bridge over Pembina Highway and a pair of rail underpasses near Jubilee Avenue; one long rail overpass at Sugar Beet lands south of Chevrier Boulevard; five new rapid-transit stations
Street crossings: Four in total. New traffic signals required in Parker lands and at McGillivray Boulevard; transit-priority gates required at Clarence Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard
Transit service impact on immediate area: Less service for existing businesses and apartments near Pembina Highway. Feeder connection possibilities for Linden Woods and Whyte Ridge
Land complications: Negotiations required for access to Manitoba Hydro right-of-way. The route would also require protection of major water and sewer pipes
Natural habitat impact: Would run through high-quality aspen parkland in Parker area
Development impact: Potential for residential and commercial development along new corridor, which could generate tax dollars to help pay for the route
2. Letellier option
Route: South along CN Letellier line, west of Pembina Highway
Length: Six kilometres
Width: 172 metres. No room for bike-and-pedestrian path
Maximum speed: 60 km/h north of McGillivray Boulevard, 80 km/h south of McGillvray
New infrastructure required: One bridge over Pembina Highway near Jubilee Avenue
Street crossings: Nine in total. New traffic signal required at McGillivray Boulevard; transit priority gates required at Byng Place, Windermere Avenue, Somerset Avenue, Waterford Avenue, Southwood Avenue, Waller Avenue, Clarence Avenue and Chevrier Boulevard
Transit service impact on immediate area: Improved service near Pembina Highway
Land complications: Negotiations required to relocate CN Letellier line nine metres west. Potential for expropriating residential properties, with high land-acquisition costs
Natural habitat impact: None
Development impact: Minimal, as there's little room for new construction along this route
-- source: Winnipeg Transit, public open houses on Stage 2 alignment for Southwest Transitway