Winnipeg group says ‘it’s time’ for rail relocation

Chris Stanton / Global News

If it ever happens, it would go down as one of the biggest projects the City of Winnipeg has ever seen.

On the surface, the task of relocating the city’s railway yards and lines seems daunting: it’s pricey, long-term and has been talked about — and shot down — multiple times.

But a new group composed of former CN and CPR employees, politicians and community activists are rallying around the issue one more time, hoping to finally get the train wheels rolling on a new location.

READ MORE: Former Quebec premier to chair Winnipeg rail relocation task force

Sel Burrows is one of the founding members of the Rail Yard Relocation Project.

“This is a chance for a major new vision,” Burrows said. “It can be done.”

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Burrows believes that the estimated $1 billion dollar price tag — with another $1 billion potentially supplied by Transport Canada — doesn’t seem so large when compared to other city infrastructure projects tied to the rails.

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The Waverley underpass project had an initial price tag of $155 million, while the proposed Arlington Bridge replacement would go for $330 million.

Together, the two projects, which are needed because of the tracks, equal almost half a billion dollars.

“You start to combine those costs in this massive new development, and all of a sudden it becomes very cheap,” Burrows said. “Once you’ve cut the cost in half and you’re spending it over a period of time, that becomes a feasible expenditure.”

READ MORE: ‘Poor condition’: City of Winnipeg inspection reports of century-old bridges

But the Waverley and Arlington are not the only projects necessary because the rail is located in the heart of Winnipeg. Multiple overpasses, underpasses and bridges are in need of major repairs or replacements.

Take for example the Main Street underpass, which – according to the city’s own inspection reports – is due for a face lift. The underpass wouldn’t need to be inspected, repaired or replaced if the tracks moved to a newly-proposed location at CentrePort.

The Rail Yard Relocation Project has big visions for the area; visions that include park space, housing and commercial developments. But above all, they believe a rail relocation would result in a more united Winnipeg after the North End and downtown core are connected.

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For now, all the group wants is a feasibility report from the city.

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