Bowman hopes to get rail relocation talks back on track

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Days after the Pallister government scuttled a $400,000-task force exploring Winnipeg rail rationalization, Mayor Brian Bowman hopes to get a similar effort back on track.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/09/2016 (2159 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Days after the Pallister government scuttled a $400,000-task force exploring Winnipeg rail rationalization, Mayor Brian Bowman hopes to get a similar effort back on track.

Bowman said Monday he’ll be contacting the provincial and federal governments to see if they’ll revive plans for another study – this time with Ottawa contributing to the cost.

“This issue isn’t going away,” Bowman told reporters about the need to examine the possibility of relocating some or all of the rail lines that cross Winnipeg.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mayor Brian Bowman: 'This issue isn’t going away.'

“I’d like to sit down in a room with provincial and federal representatives to see how we can work together to ensure we have accurate information in order to have a thoughtful discussion about how rail rationalization could possibly occur.”

The Pallister government announced last week it was killing the task force — headed by former Quebec premier Jean Charest — dismissing it as a last-ditch effort by the then-Selinger NDP government to curry favour with voters.

Municipal and Indigenous Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke said the provincial government is focused on righting the province’s financial situation and would not participate in that effort.

The issue of relocating the rail lines has drawn attention from city hall, where it’s planning several costly infrastructure projects that involve moving traffic under and over rail lines. Work has already started on the $155-million Waverley underpass, while other projects on the drawing board include a new $300-million Arlington Bridge and the widening and underpass at Marion and Archibald, which is pegged at $250 million.

Some observers have speculated removing the rail lines would eliminate the need for some of these projects, or reduce them in scope and expense. Rationalization or relocation also poses the potential of freeing up rail land for development or using abandoned rail lines for rapid transit purposes.

The railroads appeared to be reluctant participants in the Charest task force and have since said they are not interested in pursuing any further discussion.

Bowman said several Liberal MPs have since spoken out against the Pallister move, adding he hopes Ottawa can be convinced to contribute to the cost of a revived effort.

“I will be reaching out to our federal partners, some of whom have expressed their views publicly in recent days, about the need to conduct a study. We’ll be reaching out to them to see if there is an interest on their part to contribute to a study and to see where we go.”

Bowman said the city can’t avoid having that discussion and needs something like an inquiry to determine what is feasible and the cost.

“You need information to have that discussion, otherwise it’s really an academic discussion, without having the dollars in mind to, how much is it going to cost. That’s one of the key things I’d like to have answered.

“Obviously, we want to do everything we can to ensure we have up-to-date information on what would the cost be and, ultimately, long term, we need our federal and provincial partners at the table if we’re going to proceed.”

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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