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Canstar Community News - ONLINE EDITION

Eadie calls for road tolls

Money would help pay for $240-million Chief Peguis extension

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie says road tolls can help fund future extensions of the Chief Peguis Trail. In 2012, city council approved a $240-million extension to Route 90 to be complete by 2016.

WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESSEnlarge Image

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie says road tolls can help fund future extensions of the Chief Peguis Trail. In 2012, city council approved a $240-million extension to Route 90 to be complete by 2016.Photo Store

 

Mynarski Coun. Ross Eadie wants the city to explore using tolls to fund its growing list of roadway expansion plans, but he faces a potholed path in convincing his political counterparts to join the ride.

Standing at the foot of the Chief Peguis Trail at Main Street last week, Eadie said Winnipeg is running out of ways to fund its freeway plans, which include extending Chief Peguis west to Route 90 by 2016 to the tune of an estimated $240 million.

"We don’t have enough money to build all these roads," Eadie said.

In April 2012, city council voted to overrule the city’s transportation master plan, which called for Chief Peguis to be extended west in two phases – first to McPhillips Street by 2021 at a cost of $110 million, and further to Route 90 by 2031 at a cost of $130 million.

Eadie says the city will likely have to revise those plans, but maintains the extensions are needed for trade in and out of CentrePort, and for moving people in and out of the city’s rapidly-spawning suburbs. They will alleviate traffic problems on Leila Avenue and other surrounding residential streets, he added.

Eadie wants tolls, whether they are controlled by the city or a private group, to be on the table when planning next year’s budget.

"The reality is we're going to have to rationalize (our needs) in the next budget process," he said, noting he has yet to speak with other councillors or put a formal motion forth on the issue.

"We need to find a way to pay for this, and if it doesn’t happen, we’ll only able to afford to put Chief Peguis to McPhillips and leave further west to a later time until we find more money."

The city has been hampered in funding its infrastructure needs in part by a 14-year property tax freeze, which ended last year, while its repeated calls for the province to divert a greater portion of the provincial sales tax to municipal infrastructure have been largely ignored.

Those calls were amplified last month when the NDP government announced a 1% hike to the PST it wants to take effect July 1.

Though the majority of PST revenue is generated in Winnipeg, the city will only receive about $7 million of some $300 million of new revenues the hike is expected to generate each year, Eadie said.

"What alternatives do we have?" Eadie said.

"We cannot continue to borrow lots of money unless we have a revenue source to pay for it."

The province, however, was quick to stymy Eadie’s call.

According to a provincial spokesperson, municipalities would need legislative authority from the province to put a toll on any municipal or provincial road. No such legislation exists.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton said the province is not considering such legislation, but would not elaborate further.

Toll talk a distraction, Wyatt charges

Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt, who chairs council’s finance committee and is responsible for budgetary planning, said Eadie is creating a distraction for the NDP, with which Eadie is affiliated.

"We’ve been lobbying for (an increased share of) the sales tax that (the NDP has) now increased and have dedicated hardly any of it to the infrastructure of our city," Wyatt said.

"It’s a great distraction on his part, but I don’t buy it."

Sharma mum on support; Katz wants details

In March 2012, Old Kildonan Coun. Devi Sharma introduced a motion calling for the Chief Peguis extension, along with a $60 million extension of the William Clement Parkway in Charleswood, to be completed sooner than planned.

Sharma said the funding should have been on the books before she was elected in 2010. Sharma said the city needs to find the money to pay for the project but wouldn’t say whether or not she supported using tolls to cover the costs.

"It’s too early to decide what the revenue opportunities are," she said.

Mayor Sam Katz said the idea of tolls have been a regular discussion at city hall.

"Whenever you have that discussion, I think you have to be very careful," said Katz.

"If you’re talking about new construction where people can get from point A to point B much quicker by going that route and paying that toll and have a choice, it’s something that every councillor has the right to put on the table.

"I’d like to hear the particulars first," Katz added.

"I’m assuming I’ll be hearing something in the near future."

Over the last several years, the city has increasingly relied on public-private partnerships for multi-million dollar road projects — such as the the Chief Peguis extension to Lagimodiere Boulevard — where the roads are designed, built and maintained by a private consortium to which the city makes annual lease payments.

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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City-border expansion eyed for CentrePort water supply

May annex part of RM of Rosser

The City of Winnipeg is once again prepared to expand its borders in order to extend water pipes into the CentrePort development.

Since 2008, the city and province have wrestled with a jurisdictional headache surrounding the extension of services to CentrePort, an industrial development that straddles the border of Winnipeg and the RM of Rosser. A tentative deal was struck in 2011 for the two levels of government to share the $17-million cost of extending water and sewer pipes into Rosser.

But a legal challenge from a pair of northwestern Ontario Ojibwa communities effectively turned off the tap last year. Two bands situated on Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg's drinking water, argued the city had no right to sell water to neighbouring municipalities.

Ottawa and Ontario granted Winnipeg permission to draw water from Indian Bay on Shoal Lake in 1913. The International Joint Commission, a Canada-U.S. body that governs cross-border water disputes, followed suit in 1914.

In December, the commission told the city the sale of water to neighbouring municipalities was inconsistent with the 1914 agreement. The commission added teeth to that opinion with a ruling on April 18, effectively warning Winnipeg not to proceed with the plan.

"Our preliminary assessment is that the city would be in non-compliance with the IJC order should it transfer water beyond the City of Winnipeg's municipal limits," the IJC's Canada and U.S. secretaries wrote in a joint letter, adding they have brought the issue to the attention of Ottawa and Washington.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz called the preliminary assessment "extremely disappointing" but stated it may take four years to obtain a permanent assessment from the commission.

"The other option is to go where we were prepared to go four years ago," said the mayor, referring to a 2009 plan to annex the portion of the CentrePort development that lies within the RM of Rosser.

"I've always said, three conditions are necessary for CentrePort to succeed. It has to have a single authority, under a single jurisdiction (and be) private-sector-driven," Katz said. "If everyone would be following the advice that was put forward, we wouldn't be having this discussion today."

In 2009, Rosser rejected the idea of annexation, despite an offer of compensation from the City of Winnipeg. Reeve Frances Smee could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

CentrePort declined to comment on the prospect of annexation and is reviewing the IJC decision, spokeswoman Riva Harrison said in a statement.

Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux said in a statement it is not clear annexation will resolve the issue.

"We are exploring all options for servicing CentrePort," he said, raising the idea of using groundwater to service 405 hectares of industrial land.

The lingering dispute has complicated efforts to develop the industrial park. While some businesses at CentrePort have dug wells to ensure they can fight fires, other companies have held off venturing into the area without a servicing deal.

In early 2012, Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl said he wasn't concerned the servicing of the development would be threatened by the legal challenge, initially launched by Iskatewizaagegan First Nation and later joined by Shoal Lake No. 40 First Nation.

The city effectively argued water has already been sold to neighbouring municipalities, as some portions of what is now Winnipeg were separate suburbs before the Unicity amalgamation of 1972.

The IJC, however, noted that arrangement was made under the Greater Winnipeg Water District, whose responsibilities have been subsumed by the City of Winnipeg.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 1, 2013 B2

 

NEWS WINNIPEG

Parker Lands fight not over: Wetlands group

3

Coalition ready to stop rapid transit route


BY  ,WINNIPEG SUN

FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2013 05:23 PM CDT | UPDATED: SATURDAY, MARCH 23, 2013 10:26 PM CDT

Parker LandsThe Manitoba Hydro right of way, a proposed site for rapid transit, is seen in Winnipeg, Man. Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013. (BRIAN DONOGH/WINNIPEG SUN)

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Despite city council’s approval of a rapid transit route through the Parker Lands, the leader of the group interested in protecting the area’s wetlands says their fight is not over, but just beginning.

Cal Dueck, a co-chair of Parker Wetlands Conservation, said rather than being discouraged by council’s 11-5 vote approving the dogleg route for the second phase of Winnipeg’s rapid transit development, he is instead more optimistic they’ll eventually be able to halt the plan.

At a Winnipeg Transit Riders Association meeting on Saturday it was suggested the Parker wetlands would have development regardless of whether it is transit or another company.

Dueck slammed that assessment.

“That’s just the most powerfully irrational argument I’ve ever heard,” Dueck said.

Winnipeg Transit planner Bjorn Radstrom declined to speak specifically to the topic of the impact on the wetlands.

“It’s something that’s going to have to be looked at during the functional design,” he said.

Dueck said he is more optimistic now.

“This is not the end as some city councillors want it to be,” he said. “I think both the federal and provincial governments will be somewhat leery about investing in it ... We’ve had so much feedback from people wanting to help and so many people saying this is the wrong choice, this is the wrong thing to do, it will be a disaster.

“... We’ve already been talking to the provincial and federal governments and we will continue to do that. We will make sure that our voice is heard.”

Dueck says his concerns go further than just the environmental aspect.

“My own chief concern is the wetlands, but also as a citizen of Winnipeg, I don’t want my children to have to pay for a transit that’s not being used,” he said. “There’s been no study on the environment, there’s been no good study on the economic situation, on ridership, those are all missing,” Dueck said. “If we spend $340 million, we should do it right. It’s the most expensive thing we can do if we get it wrong.”

Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) was one of the councillors to vote against the suggested route last week, saying a functional study should be done for both the Parker Lands route and another proposal to have it run south alongside the CN Letellier Line.

“The majority of the Parker wetlands, most of it’s in private hands and so their fight has just begun,” he said. “When they start moving ahead with the precinct plans for this area, there’s going to be a huge fight because it’s owned by private owners ... Their battle is on into the future and it’s not just the rapid transit, it’s going to have to be when the precinct plans come up there’s going to be a lot of debate to keep those wetlands.”

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Final report: Stage 2 alignment options by Tessa Vanderhart