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Waverley underpass tops list

Trumps three other city projects seeking cash from province, Ottawa

The Waverley Street underpass has emerged as the city’s top infrastructure priority, but the project is already facing opposition.

BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Waverley Street underpass has emerged as the city’s top infrastructure priority, but the project is already facing opposition.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/3/2015 (2015 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Waverley Street underpass project has emerged as the city's top infrastructure priority.

Much-maligned Kenaston Boulevard fell to the bottom of the list -- primarily because ownership is tied up in a legal dispute with First Nations.

Mayor Brian Bowman defended the ranking of projects, adding politics was taken out of the decision-making process.

"We're trying to infuse here a higher standard and a greater reliance on proper planning and cost/benefit analysis," Bowman told reporters following a 90-minute special meeting Tuesday of the executive policy committee.

The priority list that will be presented to council Wednesday is:

  • Waverley underpass
  • Marion Street widening and underpass.
  • Chief Peguis Trail extension from Main Street to Route 90
  • Kenaston Boulevard widening

The four projects were submitted for joint funding from the province and Ottawa through the federal government's Building Canada Fund.

Bowman said last week the Selinger government held up the application because it wants city hall to rank the four projects -- suggesting there won't be enough cash to go around to do all four.

The motion described the Chief Peguis project as an extension from Main to McPhillips, but a spokeswoman for Bowman's office said that was done in error, and it will be amended from Main to Route 90 on the floor of council today.

Bowman said it's likely there will only be enough funds for two projects, adding there's no guarantee Ottawa and the provincial government will agree with the city's priorities.

Vocal opposition to EPC's ranking came from Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the city's public works committee, who said it's a wish list that fails to recognize the city's long-term needs.

Lukes (St. Norbert) said Ottawa and the province have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to establish Winnipeg as a major trading centre and placing Waverley at the top of the list does not complement that strategy.

"This (list) does not support our strategic long-term planning," said Lukes, who ranked the top two projects as Chief Peguis and Kenaston.

Lukes was the only member of EPC to vote against the priority list.

The widening of Kenaston Boulevard is at the bottom of the priority list.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The widening of Kenaston Boulevard is at the bottom of the priority list.

Earlier in the day, all members of council were briefed on the administration's ranking based on a cost/benefit analysis.

Waverley came out on top of that list, too, with Kenaston third and Chief Peguis fourth.

Coun. Russ Wyatt said he was surprised with the rankings, adding they don't appear to reflect council's priorities or its long-term goals and the cost estimates for the projects aren't reliable.

Wyatt said the way the ranking issue was handled reminded him of how Sam Katz used to manipulate council.

"This reminds me of the old days -- a history of last-minute reports, walked onto an agenda, projects being recommended without realistic estimates," Wyatt (Transcona) said.

Public Works director Brad Sacher said the cost estimates for Waverley, Marion and Chief Peguis are considered the least reliable, with an accuracy range of minus-50 per cent to plus-100 per cent; with Kenaston the most reliable.

"We shouldn't be proceeding with this list until we have a better handle on the costs," Wyatt said. "If we go forward with this much uncertainty, then the city alone will be responsible for any cost overruns."

Coun. John Orlikow, who had favoured Waverley, said in the past, politics determined which projects were approved for joint funding. He was pleased Bowman insisted administration rank their projects according to engineering criteria.

Bowman said EPC moved Kenaston down the list because no one knows when the court battles between Ottawa and the First Nations over the Kapyong Barracks will be resolved.

The administration's decision to place Waverley at the top of the list surprised most people at city hall. But Sacher said there are valid safety concerns over the repeated rail-vehicle interactions that moved the need for an underpass at Waverley and Taylor to the top of the list.

Sacher said the federal government introduced new rail-safety regulations in the fall that require municipalities to construct grade separations at busy rail crossings.

Between 30 and 40 trains cross Waverley every day, Sacher said, and the road has 30,000 vehicles on it daily.

The Marion project involves widening the St. Boniface street from Lagimodiere to Archibald with an underpass at the rail crossing near Archibald. Sacher said that rail crossing has four to eight train crossings daily.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

If the city could do only one major project this year, which one would you pick and why? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 at 5:58 AM CDT: Replaces photo, formats fact box

10:50 AM: Adds Building Canada document

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