New transit corridor could swallow up downtown surface lots

Winnipeg Transit may need to purchase downtown surface parking lots in order to carve out a route for the next segment of the city's rapid-transit network.

Winnipeg Transit may need to buy parking lots to make room for downtown portion of East Transitway

A map of the Southwest Transitway and the forthcoming East Transitway. (Jamie Clemis/CBC)

Winnipeg Transit may need to purchase downtown surface parking lots in order to carve out a route for the next segment of the city's rapid-transit network.

Consulting firms competing for the right to figure out what land is needed for the East Transitway, a future bus corridor connecting downtown to Transcona, have been told to consider the cost of acquiring or utilizing empty land in the city's commercial core.

"Options to utilize existing city-owned lands, vacant lands and surface parking lots should be explored," city transit planners advise in a search document prepared for firms interested in creating an East Transitway study.

"Integrating rapid-transit (and potentially stations) with existing or future redevelopment should be considered." 

The firm that winds up conducting the study will be asked to consider the pros and cons of two potential ways of running the East Transitway from downtown to the vicinity of Regent Avenue and Lagimodiere Boulevard. 

One involves building a new bridge over the Red River north of The Forks, which would connect to a bus corridor through Old St. Boniface. The other involves starting the corridor further north on Main Street and running it through Point Douglas and the over the Red River on a Louise Bridge replacement span that could carry both buses and motor vehicles.

Whichever alignment is chosen, Winnipeg Transit faces challenges building the downtown portion of the corridor because of high traffic volumes and a scarcity of available land, the transit planners write. Hence the potential need for surface parking lots.

The city had to expropriate parcels of land to build the $137-million first phase of the Southwest Transitway and is in the process of acquiring land for the bus corridor's $587-million second phase.

Eastern bus corridor desperately needed

The East Transitway study will help Winnipeg Transit figure out how much the new corridor will cost, said David Patman, the transit engineer responsible for planning the new corridor.

Despite the headaches involved in finding land, the eastern bus corridor is needed desperately to reduce congestion on major streets east of the Red River, said Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt.

"We have a massive amount of growth in Transcona and the growth is continuing," he said. "We either have to build massive amounts of roads and grade separations and overpasses and underpasses to address the traffic volumes, or we have to build alternative transportation such as rapid transit."

Wyatt said he does not have a preferred alignment for the East Transitway.

"I think there's pros and cons with both. We have to deal with the Louise Bridge. There's definitely an issue there. And there might be a way to do [the bridge and the transitway] together," he said. "However, at the same time, I like the idea of going through St. Boniface."

The city plans to choose a firm to conduct the study in October. The study is expected to be complete in 2018.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.