January 20, 2019

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Mayor wants to continue task force on moving rail lines

But Pallister won't commit to predecessor's $400,000 study

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Traffic at the Waverley CN Rail crossing Tuesday. </p>

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Traffic at the Waverley CN Rail crossing Tuesday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/6/2016 (956 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman said he supports the continuation of the NDP-appointed task force to study the cost of rail line relocation.

Bowman was responding to questions Wednesday from reporters over Premier Brian Pallister’s admission the day before that he has yet to confirm he will continue the study.

“We are ready and willing to play a collaborative role with the province… but we still need to hear from them on that,” Bowman said. “Getting accurate information on the cost is something that would benefit the discussion.”

Pallister refused to commit to continuing with plans for the $400,000 task force announced by the Selinger government in January. He dodged directly answering whether the task force had a future, instead accusing the NDP of saying yes to every project in the run-up to the April 19 provincial election.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/6/2016 (956 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman said he supports the continuation of the NDP-appointed task force to study the cost of rail line relocation.

Bowman was responding to questions Wednesday from reporters over Premier Brian Pallister’s admission the day before that he has yet to confirm he will continue the study.

"We are ready and willing to play a collaborative role with the province… but we still need to hear from them on that," Bowman said. "Getting accurate information on the cost is something that would benefit the discussion."

Pallister refused to commit to continuing with plans for the $400,000 task force announced by the Selinger government in January. He dodged directly answering whether the task force had a future, instead accusing the NDP of saying yes to every project in the run-up to the April 19 provincial election.

The task force is being led by former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was to assemble the group and work on the feasibility study that will calculate the cost of moving the lines and yards. A request to Charest for comment was not returned.

The funds for the task force were approved by the treasury board prior to the election, but Pallister said "the (Selinger) government has approved a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t have."

The announcement of the task force made good on a promise by former premier Greg Selinger in his fall throne speech to move rail lines out of Winnipeg. The group would also look into the savings made by avoiding the construction of overpasses and other grade separations and the value of new development on the former rail lands.

During the January announcement, Selinger said the task force would determine what lines would be easier to move in the short term, such as BNSF’s tracks through River Heights and the West End or the CPR’s Winnipeg Beach line through the North End. Both CN and CP Rail have been publicly lukewarm to the idea, frequently citing costs and complexity when asked about the topic. The cost is unknown, but could cost billions depending on how many rail lines are moved.

Bowman said rail line relocation or rationalization can’t become a priority for the city until it learns what’s at stake, adding that was the objective of creating the Charest task force.

"The first step is getting some numbers so we have a better idea of what we’re talking about."

Coun. Matt Allard, who is to be the city's representative on the task force, said he is eager to participate and hopes Pallister goes through with it.

Bowman said the city and the province need to know what kind of financial compensation the railroads expect through relocation or rationalization, adding the cost of any such move would have to be weighed against the city’s existing priorities of fixing its crumbling streets.

"This is one opportunity the previous government provided to us," Bowman said. "We were willing to play a collaborative role in partnership with them and the question really is ultimately up to the Premier, whether he and his new government want to proceed or not.

"We need to find out what those numbers are," Bowman said. "The point was to study the cost of studying rail rationalization or relocation as well as the cost of not proceeding. I think there is merit in studying that information, that’s why we agreed with the previous government to support their initiative."

With files from Kristin Annable

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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