$187-M busway would link U of M, core

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The city and province are working on a $187-million deal to connect downtown and the University of Manitoba with a dedicated busway, sources say.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/07/2008 (5123 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city and province are working on a $187-million deal to connect downtown and the University of Manitoba with a dedicated busway, sources say.

Since March, when Ottawa handed Manitoba $17.9 million for transit and alternative modes of transportation, the city and province have been discussing how to spend that cash.

Katz initially suggested a decision would be made by July 18, but later extended that deadline to July 31.

No announcement is expected today, but city hall sources confirm Winnipeg Transit has taken a detailed look at the costs and logistical challenges involved in building a southwest Winnipeg bus corridor that would parallel Pembina Highway.

The proposed busway would run from The Forks alongside the CNR Fort Rouge Yards to Jubilee Avenue, where it would cross over Pembina Highway on a new dedicated overpass. It would then follow the CNR Letellier line to the University of Manitoba.

The projected price tag for the project, which would also include a half-dozen passenger stations, is $187 million, taking into account the cost of land assembly, the new overpass, realigning part of the CNR Letellier line and potential construction inflation.

The city and province must act quickly to avoid even higher construction costs, said Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, former chair of Winnipeg’s rapid transit task force.

“We have to get an announcement soon, because otherwise the numbers are going to start moving on us and moving fast,” he said Wednesday. “The longer we wait, the higher it’s going to cost the City of Winnipeg.”

Katz declined to comment, although mayoral spokesman Brad Salyn said a rapid-transit announcement is coming in the “near future.”

That announcement is expected to include the formation of a new bus-corridor financing body, loosely modelled on the Manitoba Floodway Authority.

Katz and provincial officials have hinted the city could pay for a busway by setting up a new agency to borrow some of the money up front and then pay back the capital and interest over the span of a decade, possibly using tax revenues from developments alongside the corridor.

The province is expected to at least match a federal contribution of up to $17.9 million, while the city could devote money to the project from future capital budgets.

The city would also have the option of building a light-rail track on the corridor in the future, but has no immediate plans to pursue light-rail transit.

“LRT is so prohibitively expensive, it was not worth even studying. Just the way the city is laid out, it would be difficult to make the business case for LRT,” said Rick Wilson, Winnipeg Transit’s manager of finance and administration.

A light-rail system would require the construction of new park-and-ride lots and the creation of feeder routes involving conventional buses, Wilson said. Light-rail transit would cost eight to 10 times as much as bus rapid transit, he added.

“With Winnipeg’s infrastructure deficit, I can’t see that flying.”

The mayor has always said he prefers the idea of light rail over bus rapid transit, but also qualified that opinion by stating he does not believe Winnipeg can afford LRT.

In any event, the construction of a bus rapid transit corridor would mark the conclusion of a political journey for Katz, whose first few months in office saw him cancel a plan announced by previous mayor Glen Murray.

The earlier rapid bus plan was projected to cost $50 million, but Katz maintained that figure did not take into account land assembly and other costs. Administrative sources at city hall concede the eventual cost of Murray’s plan would have been higher than $50 million.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

The evolution of Sam Katz

A politician’s journey on the subject of rapid transit:

May 2003

“It would be a real bonus as well as a wonderful asset to have rapid transit service the areas surrounding The Forks. Rapid transit would provide an alternative to those who have been reluctant to come downtown because of parking and traffic concerns. I believe that rapid transit will be yet another positive step in the right direction to further revitalize downtown Winnipeg and I look forward to seeing it become a reality.”

SEmD Winnipeg Goldeyes owner Sam Katz in a letter

to then-mayor Glen Murray.

June 2004

“I know that the three levels of government have agreed to it, I know it would be difficult to change. I also know that it’s a lot of money that is going somewhere where I am not sure all citizens believe it should be spent.”

SEnD Mayoral candidate Katz during the civic byelection,

commenting on Murray’s $51-million rapid transit plan.

September 2004

“I believe a rapid transit will be part of Winnipeg’s future, but this is a question of priorities. My priorities and the priorities of Winnipeg lie with preserving a viable and rich community recreation infrastructure.”

SEnD Newly elected mayor Katz as he announces his intention to cancel

Murray’s rapid transit plan and funnel

$43 million toward community centres.

November 2004

“I believe our citizens deserve the best that’s out there. Why should Winnipeggers settle for anything less? LRT (light-rail transit) is definitely the best. Now, the question is what will this committee decide they think of it, and can we afford it?”

SEnD Katz, announcing the formation of the Rapid Transit Task Force.

October 2005

“An efficient, reliable and modern transit system is key to our future as a city of opportunity.”

SEnD Katz, as the Rapid Transit Task Force recommended building a busway

March 2008

“I’ve never, ever said I was against rapid transit.”

SEnD Mayor Katz, when the city added a $2.75-million line item in the operating budget to put away cash toward a rapid transit system.

“Rapid transit is something our city should have.”

SEnD Mayor Katz later the same month, when Ottawa

announced it will give Manitoba $17.9 million for transportation.

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