Not only will a light rail transit (LRT) increase public transportation ridership, but it will help to create greater residential and commercial development density, according to Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.
“Winnipeg needs a long-term sustainable rapid transit system that will get people out of their cars and thinking seriously about alternative forms of transportation,” said Katz. “Light rail provides the best long-term life-cycle benefits in terms of increased ridership, increased residential and commercial development density, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Katz used a recent visit to Transcona to emphasize the need to use federal and provincial funding to address the city’s $7.4-billion infrastructure deficit, and to assure Winnipeggers that using federal government for this purpose money will not imperil plans to implement a rapid transit system.
By a 10-4 vote, city council recently endorsed the mayor’s pet project to build an LRT system from the downtown to the University of Manitoba. The $138-million first phase of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor has been partially completed to accommodate bus rapid transit (BRT).
Under criticism from BRT proponents and the provincial government, Katz concentrated on bringing his LRT plan to city council, claiming federal money is available to convert the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor busway to a flexible streetcar system.
The mayor said it will cost a total of $500 million to complete the corridor for use by flexible streetcars that can also ride on city street tracks.
Katz said there is potential federal funding available through P3 Canada. “We need to ensure we are advocating strongly on behalf of Winnipeggers to make the right decision for the future of Winnipeg,” he added.
Accompanied by Transcona Councillor Russ Wyatt, Katz recently visited Plessis Road, the site of one of the 11 city-wide priority infrastructure projects endorsed by city council.
“Winnipeg’s infrastructure is in much need of improvement,” said Katz. “We all hear about it and notice more each day; it’s time we get to work on these projects and give Winnipeggers the peace of mind that their streets and bridges will not fall further into decay.
“This is not an ‘either-or’ debate between rapid transit and traditional infrastructure — we can have, and deserve to have both,” he added.
Twinning of Plessis Road from Dugald Road to Pandora Avenue West, combined with a grade separation at the Canadian National rail line, will provide more effective traffic flows, according to the mayor, reducing travel times and costs for commercial and commuter traffic.
Modifications to the Active Transportation Network would also be part of a twinned Plessis Road.
“With major large employers such as the CNR Intermodal Terminal and New Flyer Industries, North East Winnipeg has become a centre of industry, commercial and residential growth,” said Wyatt. “To ensure growth continues, we must have modern and new strategic infrastructure such as the Plessis Road underpass at the CNR mainline.”
While detailed planning is yet to be done for this project, a preliminary estimate for the cost is $50 million.
Katz said upgrading existing infrastructure must be a part of the city’s overall transportation plan.
“As the population of Winnipeg continues to increase, our transportation networks for roads, active transportation and public transit must accommodate our city’s growth,” he added.