Winnipeg city council has approved a $590-million plan to extend the city's rapid transit line to the University of Manitoba.

Councillors voted late Wednesday afternoon in favour of extending the existing Southwest Transitway, which runs from downtown to Jubilee Avenue, by 7.6 kilometres to the university campus.

Councillors who opposed the plan were Jeff Browaty, Scott Fielding, Paula Havixbeck, John Orlikow, Justin Swandel and Russ Wyatt.

Earlier in the afternoon, councillors voted down a proposal to hold a public referendum on the rapid transit expansion plan, known as Phase 2.

Browaty had urged councillors to let the public decide whether Phase 2 should be funded and built.

In the end, Browaty, Fielding and Wyatt voted in favour of a referendum. Fielding had called the rapid transit expansion a "monster mega-project" for which consulting with citizens makes sense.

Other councillors and Mayor Sam Katz slammed the idea of a rapid transit plebiscite. Coun. Jenny Gerbasi called it a waste of time and money.

"This has been talked about maybe four or five decades now," Katz said, adding that the city can't sit around and do nothing.

"It's a non-binding referendum," said Coun. Brian Mayes. "We'd be right back here, or whoever's elected would be right back here, considering the issue again."