Waverley Street underpass expropriations should begin, city report says

City of Winnipeg administrators want to start expropriation proceedings to acquire about 20 properties for the Waverly Street underpass.

Report going to the property and development committee today

The $155-million underpass will be built at the Waverley Street railway crossing. (CBC)

City of Winnipeg administrators want to start expropriation proceedings to acquire about 20 properties for the Waverley Street underpass.

The request is in a report for the city council's property and development committee, which met Tuesday. 

The report asks for authorization to get the province to waive the requirement for an expropriation inquiry. That would allow the lands to be taken as required for the project, "opened for public right-of-way, created as parcels, or taken for easement purposes," the report said. 

Staff want to ensure the city is in possession of the land in time for pre-construction to take place in 2016 so construction can begin in early 2017. The project is expected to be completed in 2019.

The city has already contacted all of the private property owners impacted, but the report said without expropriation "it is highly unlikely that all private land interests will be acquired in time to allow for pre-construction."

They will continue negotiations with landowners, but if no deal can be made, the land will be expropriated and financial compensation will be decided according to expropriation laws.

"We can't start putting roads and building stuff when we don't own the land or we may not get it," said City Coun. John Orlikow. "This is just part of the process. My hope is always at the end of the day, there's no expropriations, but again, we can't hope that will happen because the project can't start unless we get it."

Reh Fit Centre concerned detour might affect business

Orlikow said most of the land is owned by the Reh Fit Centre, but he doesn't think the expropriation will affect the Reh Fit Centre's plans to expand in the long term, as it only needs small slivers of land permanently and larger portions temporarily.

"There may be a sliver here or there, but we just need it for that access road, the temporary access road that's going through," said Orlikow. "We need that other side – where the old Pitch and Putt used to be – where [the Reh Fit Centre] want to build their new building. We need that for staging, construction staging, but after that, we don't need it."

Sue Boreskie, the CEO of the Reh Fit Centre, said Tuesday's report shows a "worst-case scenario."

"What was announced is the maximum amount of land, if they ideally were to take anything they wanted to work on their expansion, that's what they would be taking," said Boreskie. "But, obviously, it's an open field at this point so that's how they started their plans. Now that they know about our health and wellness hub, they are working with us."

Boreskie said there are ongoing discussions about how the Reh Fit centre could work on their expansion plans while the underpass is built.

"We're not concerned about the end product. We think it's going to be a good thing for this area because there's a lot of traffic and widening of Taylor as well," said Boreskie. "The question is, for us, is surviving that detour in the two years, making sure that they have thought through that clients have to get to the Reh Fit. We have to continue our business as well as everybody else in this area."

Orlikow said a bigger stumbling block for the city is a parcel of land owned by Manitoba Hydro.

He said city officials will ask the province to get involved, as Hydro is asking five times the amount the city thinks the land is worth.

In February, city council approved the $155-million project that will see the intersection of Waverley Street at the CN main line replaced with an underpass.

Approximately 30,000 vehicles and 40 trains go through the intersection every day, a city report found.