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Manitoba Minister of Transportation Ron Lemieux (right) along with Winnipeg Deputy Mayor Justin Swandel talk to the media about Kenaston Boulevard plans.

RUTH.BONNEVILLE@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Manitoba Minister of Transportation Ron Lemieux (right) along with Winnipeg Deputy Mayor Justin Swandel talk to the media about Kenaston Boulevard plans.

With Banjo Bowl traffic jammed up behind them, politicians unveiled nearly $55 million Sunday to link Kenaston Boulevard to the Perimeter, a move they said would help ease traffic on the notoriously busy road.

The money will cover the extension of Kenaston through Waverley West, widening of parts of the road and the extension of Waverley Street, which will swing around to the west and link with Kenaston.

But the cash comes with several questions — it’s still not clear what kind of underpass or overpass will get built at Bishop Grandin and Kenaston, and there’s no money yet to actually connect Kenaston with the Perimeter with a cloverleaf of some kind.

And, there is little movement on widening Kenaston through River Heights, where the road shrinks to two lanes and traffic usually bottlenecks the worst. Plans for that section are in limbo until a First Nations claim to the Kapyong Barracks can be resolved in court.

But politicians said work could begin as early as this year on the extension through Waverley West, with construction wrapped up in 2012.

"With all the traffic we have, it’s important to invest in roads," said Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge.

Ottawa, the city and the province are splitting the $55 million cost roughly three ways. The city is chipping in nearly $22 million with Ottawa spending $18 million. The province is spending $15 million to run Kenaston through Waverley West, a suburb the province owns and is developing.

The political leaders, including St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel, said the Kensaton expansion also boosts the inland port project, which aims to better link continental rail and truck routes with the airport. They said a better-flowing Kenaston should ease congestion on Pembina Highway and Waverley Street.

The announcement on Sunday — an unusual day for a federal press conference — is the latest in a flurry of goodies the Tories are doling out across the country. Federal politicians announced $83 million for recreation centres and bike paths last week in Winnipeg, and there are rumours Prime Minister Stephen Harper may make a stop in the city early this week as part of a swing through Western Canada.

But politicians poo-pooed suggestions that Sunday’s announcement was part of a pre-election plan by the Tories to boost their profile before a possible vote of non-confidence topples their minority government.

Just as provincial Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux was explaining the long negotiation process involved in reaching the Kenaston deal, a gust of wind knocked down a Canadian flag behind the politicians.

"If the government falls like that flag..." quipped Lemieux.

Later, Bruinooge said the federal cash is contingent on the Harper government winning the looming election or surviving long enough to write the cheque.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca