Mayor Sam Katz says city council is committed to completing the second phase of the bus transit corridor.

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Mayor Sam Katz says city council is committed to completing the second phase of the bus transit corridor.

Katz said he's puzzled by the recent allegations from finance chairman Russ Wyatt the project is being changed, with resulting cost increases.

"We know what the numbers are; there haven't been any changes," Katz said, adding, however, the $600-million estimate for the project has been revised downwards to $590 million.

Katz said despite Wyatt's concerns and a lobby effort by Coun. Scott Fielding to scrap the project, the bus corridor will be completed.

"I do believe that council will concur it's time to move forward," Katz said.

The province and the city have committed to spending $225 million each on the $600-million project, with Ottawa yet to commit an additional $150 million.

The project originally began as a $350-million dedicated bus corridor route linking the completed first phase to the University of Manitoba campus.

The project was expanded to include the reconstruction of the Jubilee underpass ($105 million) and nearby sewer and drainage work ($70 million). The bus corridor portion of the project is now estimated to cost $425 million.

Katz acknowledged he always preferred light rail to a dedicated bus route, but added a study concluded bus is best for Winnipeg at this time.

Katz said when conditions are right, the bus corridor can be converted to accommodate light rail transportation.

Wyatt said he remains convinced design changes are planned for the bus corridor that will drive up its costs, adding that merits reconsidering the bus versus light rail debate.

Wyatt (Transcona) said Winnipeg is growing faster than predicted and it's time to weigh the benefits of changing the bus corridor to light rail.

Wyatt said securing financing for light rail would be easier than for bus, adding a light rail system could be designed, built and operated by a manufacturer, with the costs to the city amortized over decades.

Katz said while city hall is still struggling with how to come up with its $225-million share of the project, light rail would cost more than $1.5 billion.

An administrative report on the bus corridor project is expected to be presented at this morning's finance committee meeting. Katz said the report, if ready, will be presented to all members of council at a special seminar Friday.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca