Rail relocation group urges mayor to pick up work dropped by province
Group of prominent Winnipeggers urges city to study costs and benefits
The City of Winnipeg is being urged to renew plans to study the feasibility of relocating rail yards and lines from the inner city.
Former federal cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy, former judge Charles Huband and North End activists Arlene Jones and Sel Burrows met with Brian Bowman on Thursday morning in an effort to convince the mayor the city should fund a feasibility study similar to the one abandoned by the province two years ago.
"The city could take the lead with the other levels of government to make that happen," Axworthy said outside Bowman's office following a 35-minute meeting with the mayor.
"Without that kind of overall study, this is simply a vision."
- Opinion: Wrong side of the tracks: Moving the CP rail yards could bring Winnipeg together, Charles Huband writes
- 1980 CP Railway relocation debate
For decades, urbanists have touted the development potential of moving the Canadian Pacific Railway yards, which have physically separated the North End from the inner city for more than a century. The potential benefits include urban renewal, greater connectivity, lower bridge-maintenance costs and the rerouting of hazardous rail cargo, such as oil, outside the city.
However, the up-front costs of relocation have never been studied in detail. They include costs for removing infrastructure, remediating industrial pollution and the reconstruction of rail lines, facilities and overpasses outside the city, not to mention rural land expropriation costs and compensation for industries within Winnipeg that would lose access to spur lines.
The former NDP provincial government proposed a $400,000 rail-relocation feasibility study during the waning days of Greg Selinger's time as premier. That plan was cancelled following the election of Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservative government.
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Estimates for both the costs and benefits of rail relocation have involved figures in the billions.
But there can be no serious discussion without an actual study, Huband said.
"We want a feasibility study to indicate to us what the possibilities would be and what the costs would be and if we can get that far, I think there will be a demand on the part of the citizens of Winnipeg to say, 'Let's move forward with this,' " Huband said.
The delegation said the mayor was supportive but did not commit to funding a feasibility study, which would cost in the range of $400,000, Burrows said.
The mayor's office declined requests for comment, stating Brian Bowman was available to media who attended the opening of a new library.