Detour for rapid transit?

Less direct route from U of M to Jubilee an option

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The second leg of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor may wind around Fort Garry residential neighbourhoods instead of running parallel to Pembina Highway as originally planned.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2011 (4101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The second leg of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor may wind around Fort Garry residential neighbourhoods instead of running parallel to Pembina Highway as originally planned.

The latest twist in Winnipeg’s long-running rapid-transit saga has city officials considering a less direct bus or rail link between Jubilee Avenue and the University of Manitoba, using undeveloped land in the Parker neighbourhood and a Manitoba Hydro corridor.

The City of Winnipeg is putting the finishing touches on the first phase of the southwest corridor, a 3.6-kilometre busway that runs between Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks and Jubilee Avenue at Pembina Highway. When the $138-million route opens in April, it will allow buses running between downtown and the U of M to bypass traffic in Osborne Village and Confusion Corner.

In 2008, the city and province announced plans to build a six-kilometre second leg that would continue south on Pembina to Bison Drive near the U of M. Construction was supposed to begin in 2012. But the second phase of the corridor has been in limbo since late 2009, when Mayor Sam Katz withdrew his support for the project as part of a dispute with the provincial government over infrastructure funding.

Since then, council has endorsed a Katz plan to pursue funding for a light-rail network. But the city has made no plans to save or borrow money for future rapid-transit corridors.

The future of rapid transit will be determined by a $1.15-million transportation master plan that’s supposed to be presented to city council in the fall.

At an open house last week, where interim plans were presented to the public, the strategy called for five rapid-transit corridors: a completed southwest corridor, new lines along sections of Nairn Avenue, Main Street and Portage Avenue and a spur line from Polo Park to the Richardson International Airport.

The interim plan also included the first evidence of a potential southwest corridor realignment that’s been the subject of rumours at city hall for months: an L-shaped detour around Fort Garry’s Parker, Beaumont and Maybank neighbourhoods.

“SW Corridor alignment to be determined,” reads a note attached to the proposed route change.

Winnipeg’s mayor said he is aware of the idea but has not seen a formal plan. “That’s supposed to come forward with the transportation study,” Katz said Wednesday. “Unless something comes officially, there’s nothing for me to consider at this stage of the game, so I will wait to see what the transportation study recommends.”

Transportation engineers, however, recommend using transit corridors to stimulate new commercial or residential development, Katz added.

“They will tell you one of the criteria for deciding the priority route is where you can create extra development,” the mayor said.

The idea of moving the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor away from Pembina Highway first emerged in 2009, when council approved a land swap with developer Andrew Marquess, who wants to build townhouses on unserviced, partly wooded land in the Parker neighbourhood. That plan, devised by then-property director Phil Sheegl — now Winnipeg’s chief administrator — proposed an eastern extension of Sterling Lyon Parkway as well as a rapid-transit corridor running along Parker Avenue.

The newest variation of this plan would see a bus or rail corridor wrap around the Parker neighbourhood and follow a north-south Manitoba Hydro right-of-way that extends south to Pembina Highway, just north of Bishop Grandin Boulevard.

River Heights-Fort Garry Coun. John Orlikow, who represents the neighbourhoods along the proposed route, said he has been left in the dark by city officials about the route changes as well as the transportation master plan. Councillors Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) and former rapid-transit task force chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) also complained city officials refuse to brief them about what they call a secret transportation plan.

“EPC may have it already, but they’re not telling us. We’ll probably get it an hour-and-a-half before (reporters) get it,” Orlikow said. “That’s too bad. Traffic is one of the top issues in my ward, and to be screwed out of the process is quite concerning.”

Parker Avenue resident Cal Dueck, who opposes the proposed townhouses in the woods near his neighbourhood, questioned the motivation for the possible relocation of a bus or rail corridor from Pembina Highway.

“People are not going to walk over from Pembina,” he said, suggesting the city is more interested in generating revenue. “To me, it’s pretty obvious what they’re doing it for. If you’re not doing it close to Pembina, you’re not going to get the ridership.”

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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