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Transitway's cost balloons

Up to $600M under larger city plan

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Plans for an extension of Winnipeg's rapid transit route are in limbo.  The city has increased the project scope to $600 million and seeks $225 million in provincial funding.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Plans for an extension of Winnipeg's rapid transit route are in limbo. The city has increased the project scope to $600 million and seeks $225 million in provincial funding. Photo Store

The price tag for completing the Southwest Transitway has risen to $600 million under a city plan to complete the bus corridor as part of a larger project that also includes a new Pembina Highway Underpass and a Fort Rouge sewer replacement.

Over the past year, the city and province have been embroiled in a dispute over the extension of the Southwest Transitway from Jubilee Avenue to the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus.

The province agreed to pay for one-third of the $350-million price tag, or $116.7 million. The city requested a provincial commitment of $137.5 million, based on the expectation Ottawa would pay for no more than $75 million of a transitway built as a public-private partnership.

Now, the city has increased the project scope to $600 million and seeks $225 million in provincial funding. The rationale is to co-ordinate the construction of a new busway bridge across Pembina Highway, the reconstruction of the Pembina Highway Underpass and a combined-sewer replacement in the vicinity of Calrossie Boulevard, said Deepak Joshi, the city's chief operating officer.

'The costs have dramatically escalated from the time this conversation started'

-- Premier Greg Selinger

"All of these projects are culminating together and need to be done as an integrated approach," Joshi said Tuesday in an interview. "We're trying to see the complete picture. These are all projects that need to be done in this area. One needs to be a catalyst for the others.

"What is the proper way of doing it, with the least impact on the area?"

The existing plan for completing the Southwest Transitway also called for moving a portion of the CN Letellier line and then moving it back. Completing the transitway as part of a larger project could avoid that "throwaway cost," Joshi said.

The province, which has already committed $10 million toward the transitway's completion over the next two years, was taken aback by the increased scope of the project.

"It seems to include a lot of stuff, including underpasses," Premier Greg Selinger said Tuesday. "The costs have dramatically escalated from the time this conversation started."

The premier said the province supports the city's idea of creating a transit authority to oversee transit development and possibly avoid further cost escalations. Mayor Sam Katz floated the idea at a state of the city speech in 2008.

"We want to move forward on this and we want to do it in a way that's cost-effective for Winnipeggers," Selinger said. "They put numbers out and we're trying to respond, but the numbers keep going up."

Katz's office declined comment Tuesday. Over the past few months, the mayor and the Selinger government have taken turns accusing each other of trying to stymie the transitway's completion.

The province has questioned Katz's commitment to the project, while the mayor said the province has jeopardized funding deadlines.

In the meantime, Winnipeg Transit is preparing to conduct a detailed design for the transitway's seven-kilometre second leg, which would run west of Pembina Highway through the Parker Lands and then south along a Manitoba Hydro right-of-way.

It would reunite with the CN Letellier line near a redevelopment site known as the Sugar Beet Lands and follow the rail corridor south across Bishop Grandin Boulevard towards the U of M campus. Finally, it would cross Pembina Highway and run through the U of M's vacant Southwood land before terminating at a new Stadium Station northeast of Investors Group Field.

The first phase of the Southwest Transitway was completed in 2012 at a cost of $138 million. It runs 3.6 kilometres from Queen Elizabeth Way to Jubilee Avenue.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 8:12 AM CDT: adds photo

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