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Let’s Complete the Study on Rail Relocation Cancelled by Province

'Do we want to keep spending money to work around the problem or to solve it?' - Robert-Falcon Ouellette

In 2014, as part of our Mayoral campaign, we proposed the study as an important part of a new vision for Winnipeg, which would see how rail relocation could enhance the City’s Transportation Master Plan and help positively redefine our city for the future. In 2016 the Province cancelled the study. (1)

The study would explore two components:

  • First, a realistic cost estimate of moving most heavy rail traffic to new, modern yards and multimodal exchanges connected with air freight and trucking. This estimate would include social, economic and environmental benefits of not having to build major infrastructure projects to work around existing rail.

  • Second, enhancing the Transit Master Plan by moving routes off streets, and using existing rail and rail rights-of-way for Bus Rapid Transit lines or for a city-wide commuter rail network

Since making the commitment to look at rail relocation eight years ago, some $617-million has been spent on infrastructure dealing with rail lines. (2) As well, The cost of replacing the all-but-condemned Arlington Bridge has risen from $100-million to $330-million as a preliminary estimate. (3)

For anyone who has wanted better transit in Winnipeg, for commuters who get stuck waiting for freight trains, and for taxpayers who are paying the tab, we have an obligation to see whether we could be doing better.

A considerable amount of Winnipeg’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit is tied up in overpasses, underpasses and replacing bridges around rail lines and railyards.

Do we want to keep spending money to work around the problem or to solve it?

While the costs of moving most heavy rail traffic outside of the city is perceived as high, there are good reasons to think it would cost much less than many critics have supposed, because there would also be savings in other projects.

That’s because repurposing existing rail or rail rights-of-ways would reduce the cost of other kinds of transportation infrastructure, including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines, the potential for Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines or commuter trains and active transportation.

Nashville was able to convert freight to commuter rail at a cost of $2.1-million/km in 2005. (4) Compare that to Phase 2 of the 7km Southwest Transit Way extension from Jubilee to the U of M, which included the controversial dog-leg through the Parker Lands, that cost $420-million or $60-million/km. This final cost rose considerably from an initial estimate in 2005 of $84-million, or $8.75-million/km.(5)

Now with plans to complete the Transit Master Plan at an estimated cost of $1.1-billion, which includes 3 BRT lines and uses primarily existing streets. (6) We should find out what cost savings there would be if we could use existing rail right-of-ways and avoid building over, under or around rail traffic.

It is these kind of questions and comparisons in cost-savings that the study would look at.

We already have a rail network that runs through Transcona, River Heights, St, Boniface, down to St Norbert and Southdale, and out to Charleswood. Instead of carrying oil cars and hazardous materials, we could be moving families, students, seniors and commuters..

Turning the railyard into the Forks is one of the best things this City and province have done. We can see that kind of transformation again. This can be done, and the time is now, not a decade from now.

This election offers voters a chance to transform Winnipeg for the better.

The estimated the cost of the study at $1-million, but that since rail falls under Federal jurisdiction, he would approach the Federal Government to cover as much of the cost as possible.


(2) Phase 2 of the Southwest Transit way, $420-million / Waverley Underpass, $98-million / Plessis Underpass $88-million





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