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Mynarski city councillor ward report: Have your say on this toll-road idea

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Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie says road tolls can help fund future extensions of the Chief Peguis Trail. In 2012, city council approved a $240-million extension to Route 90 to be complete by 2016.

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Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie says road tolls can help fund future extensions of the Chief Peguis Trail. In 2012, city council approved a $240-million extension to Route 90 to be complete by 2016. Photo Store Photo Store

Winnipeg’s regional road monetary needs are huge. The reality is Winnipeg is growing but there is not enough revenue to afford all a city can do for its residents.

The City of Winnipeg is soon starting a budget consultation to allow for resident input into the 2014 budget process. It is time for a discussion on toll roads, which may help raise the dollars for regional infrastructure. There is technology available today to allow motor vehicles to travel at regular speeds while being recorded and billed for the use of roads on a toll system. There are three different possibilities for a toll system for Winnipeg:

1. Setting a toll on trade and commuter traffic from outside the city.

In 2007, it was estimated over 79,000 non-Winnipeggers used Winnipeg’s regional roads to go to work and to participate in city activities. The municipalities around Winnipeg are growing with many more commuters. Including trade traffic, Winnipeg could raise money by tolling motor vehicles entering the city’s road system. This method would have those from outside of Winnipeg contribute back to the city.

2. Setting a toll on Winnipeg’s inner ring roads

Industry and many suburban residents have demanded an inner-ring, regional road system be built to drive Winnipeg’s economy and to allow them to get to work much quicker. Regional roads such as Lagimodiere Boulevard, Chief Peguis Trail, Kenaston Boulevard, King Edward Street, Century Street, Brookside Boulevard, and Bishop Grandin Boulvevard could all be considered part of an inner-ring road system. Each of these roads have 30,000 to 75,000 motor vehicles travelling on them each weekday, according to a 2012 City of Winnipeg traffic flow map.

3. Setting a toll for building and maintaining a stretch of road or bridge

According to the City of Winnipeg’s capital budget forecast, there is a need: to extend Chief Peguis Trail further west to Brookside near CentrePort; to extend the William R. Clement Park Way much further south; to replace the Louise and Arlington bridges; and to build or expand a number of underpasses in the city.

A toll could be set up to charge each user of these roads and bridges. On the downside, the traffic flow may not be large enough to cover all building costs. Chief Peguis Trail now sees about a 30,000 motor vehicles per weekday. The Arlington Bridge does not see a large traffic flow like the Pembina Highway underpass. At least partial funding could be derived in this manner.

Please let the budget consultation process know how you feel about tolls, and also let them know your preference of the three methods I’ve outlined.

We really need to solve this infrastructure problem. Of course, the City of Winnipeg would have to get approval from the Province of Manitoba to set and collect tolls, but our province needs to allow the city to raise revenue it cannot get from the higher levels of government.

I believe the regional road system in Winnipeg is important to the Province of Manitoba’s economy. We cannot continue to burden property tax payers with regional roads. Property tax payers will have to pay tolls but they can control how many times they use a toll road.

Ross Eadie is the city councillor for Mynarski.

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