Ready to talk rapid transit
Katz, Selinger could bring end to two-year impasse
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/11/2011 (4161 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg’s mayor and Manitoba’s premier both say they’re ready to roll on the next phase of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor — although they have yet to express this to each other, face to face.
Sam Katz and Greg Selinger both signalled Tuesday they are prepared to end their nearly two-year-old dispute over the completion of a rapid-transit line that would eventually connect downtown Winnipeg to the University of Manitoba.
The corridor’s $138-million first phase, a 3.6-kilometre busway that runs between Queen Elizabeth Way and Jubilee Avenue and bypasses Confusion Corner, is slated to open in April. But there is no funding agreement in place to begin work on a six-kilometre extension of the route to Bison Drive.
In late 2009, the Selinger government and Ottawa each agreed to contribute $63 million toward the completion of this second leg, whose cost was pegged at $189 million at the time. But Katz turned down the offer due to higher cost projections, his desire to fund other infrastructure projects and a preference to upgrade the entire bus corridor to light rail.
Katz softened that position last week after the city unveiled a transportation master plan that calls for the completion for four rapid-transit lines by 2031, starting with the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor.
The mayor says he would support the completion of this route as a busway as a first step toward a future light-rail upgrade. But he would do this only if the province agrees to cover at least one-third of the projected $275-million cost and Ottawa also contributes.
“If the premier is genuinely prepared to come to the table with $92 million, in 2011 dollars, I’m prepared to go for it,” Katz said Tuesday in an interview.
“You can talk all you want about doing it. Are they prepared to put up one-third?”
Katz said he still prefers to upgrade the entire route to light rail, which would cost the city $700 million. But he said he is prepared to fund the busway first if he has willing partners in the other two levels of government.
The recently re-elected Selinger suggested Manitoba’s NDP government will come to the table, even though he did not state any specific funding target.
“The minute they’re ready to do it, we’re ready to work with them on it,” said the premier, noting the construction of the new football stadium at the University of Manitoba as an impetus for the completion of the city’s first rapid-transit corridor.
“We’ve always suggested that how we build the infrastructure should allow for conversion to light rail, if it’s cost-effective. But let’s get on with it and build it and make sure that it’s available to people so we can move more people in south Winnipeg.”
There’s a window of opportunity for the city, province and Ottawa to complete the southwest corridor, said St. Boniface Coun. Dan Vandal, who’s a member of both the NDP and council’s executive policy committee.
By the third week of November, EPC is expected to table the 2012 capital budget and five-year capital forecast, a spending blueprint for future infrastructure projects. Transit proponents on council hope this plan will include the cost of planning the second phase of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor, if not the completion itself.
“Our challenge is to try to craft a budget document that will start to pave the way for either the conclusion of this rapid-transit line or the start of another one,” Vandal said. The city also plans to complete east, west and north corridors by 2031, along with the construction of an inner ring road and the completion of streets that will serve the CentrePort trade hub.
“Our challenge as politicians is to bring it down to the year-to-year reality of what we can afford and negotiate with other levels of government to do something positive, both on the road side and on the transit side,” Vandal said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.