St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard wants city hall to scrap its ambitious plans for a massive interchange and underpass at Marion and Archibald streets and start over with a search for a solution to the problematic intersection that is hobbled by frequent train crossings.

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St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard wants city hall to scrap its ambitious plans for a massive interchange and underpass at Marion and Archibald streets and start over with a search for a solution to the problematic intersection that is hobbled by frequent train crossings.

Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).

Allard said the city can’t afford the $250-million project, which will involve the destruction of two neighbourhoods with the expropriation and demolition of more than 140 properties, including a Sikh temple and a neighbourhood park. The project’s final price tag will likely double.

"We need something that is viable for the area, appropriate in scale and something the city can afford," Allard said.

The Marion project was originally envisioned as a straight-forward $70-million underpass or overpass at Marion and Archibald to eliminate traffic back-ups from the CPR Emerson train crossings.

But following a public consultation process, it’s now morphed into what appears to be the largest intersection west of Toronto: the realigning and widening of Marion from Youville Street to Dawson Road; a massive cloverleaf interchange at Marion and Archibald; a rail line underpass; cutting off westbound Marion at Dawson and realigning traffic onto Panet Road and Dugald Road.

"I don’t know what happened to this project," Allard said. "We have to start over from scratch."

Allard said he had supported the project earlier in the year. Since then, he’s seen strong opposition from the community and said the net benefits are unclear.

In addition to the cost of the expropriating 140 properties, Allard said city officials have not provided him with estimates on the loss of property tax revenue from homes and businesses that will be eliminated as a result of the project.

The evolution of the project has alarmed area residents, who believe it’s unnecessarily large and will destroy the character of the area with the demolition of so many businesses and homes.

Walter Kleinschmit, past president of the Old St. Boniface Residents Association, said the community had envisioned an overpass as the solution to the train crossing, similar to the one at Nairn Avenue and Archibald.

This was the plan the city chose in June, which Coun. Matt Allard was in support of. The yellow shading is the impacted buildings/property required.

This was the plan the city chose in June, which Coun. Matt Allard was in support of. The yellow shading is the impacted buildings/property required.

Kleinschmit said traffic counts at Marion and Archibald are comparable to those at Nairn and Archibald, and added the current proposal is "overkill."

Consultants hired by the city said the new design reflects feedback from community consultations and meets the goals of improving traffic flow by eliminating the rail lines as a barrier and the traffic lights, with the cloverleaf interchange. In addition, the consultants cited linking Marion directly to Dugald, via Panet, as a benefit to traffic flow and said the new design will include pedestrian and cycling paths along the revamped corridor.

The price tag and scope of the design was one of the reasons council opted to lower the priority of the Marion project on its list of infrastructure needs requesting federal funding, dropping behind the Waverley underpass project.

Allard said he recognizes that with the apparent resolution of the Kapyong Barracks property dispute between Ottawa and the local First Nations, the Marion project could fall behind the Kenaston widening as the city’s next significant infrastructure project.

Allard said the public works department will present a report to the public works committee likely by January. "My goal will be to convince my council colleagues to reject this design and start all over again," Allard said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca