It was interesting to hear our Premier declare in the recent Throne Speech that he’d like to move all rail lines out of the city.
Even more interesting is that he’s been in power for six years now and has done nothing to bring this about. Just a final swan song to appeal to voters in the upcoming provincial election.
I see our councillor John Orlikow was quick to jump on the bandwagon and pledge his support for removal of the BNSF spur line that runs through River Heights.
This may actually be more achievable than total removal of all CN and CP tracks.
But bear in mind when local government take on the railways they invariably don’t have much success. This is very apparent in River Heights where a bunch of silos appeared a few years ago. Even though they annoyed residents and flouted zoning regulations, the City was powerless to do anything as they were erected on land that was leased from the railway.
So it will be a tough fight to get the rail lines removed.
But if they are removed, then what? It will of course prevent local motorists from having to wait at rail crossings. But what will happen to the land left behind?
This would make a wonderful opportunity for green space. A pedestrian and cycling corridor allowing a viable commuting option away from traffic and running parallel to Kenaston Blvd.
A similar thing has been done on the other side of the city where the tracks between Gateway and Raleigh Streets were removed a while ago.
This makes a lot of sense at a time when the City is pledging a staggering $334 million to cycling infrastructure over the next 20 years. It could connect Red River College and the Weston industrial area to south Winnipeg.
I’m not holding my breath though. River Heights had a similar opportunity awhile back with the removal of the rail lines running between Lockwood and Centennial Streets.
But what did we do? Built condos. Condos that may look very nice yet have their frontage facing someone’s back lane. Just because the land was available.
We’re also losing more green space on Grosvenor Avenue where a small park has just been sold off for residential development.
It’s the same old story, sell the land to developers for the highest dollar, never mind that the quality of life could be enhanced by more green space in the heart of the city.
So, if I’m hoping for a north-south active transportation route running through River Heights, I may be dreaming.
But then again, if our Premier wants to remove all rail lines from Winnipeg, I’m not the only one.