In order for the province to move forward with major improvements on the Daly Overpass, the City of Brandon first needs to address the aging Eighth Street bridge, according to Premier Greg Selinger.
"If you’re going to shut the … Daly Overpass, you need to divert traffic to the Eighth Street bridge," Selinger said. "There’s a concern that the Eighth Street bridge may not be sufficiently strong at the moment to handle that."
In a wide-ranging interview with the Brandon Sun editorial board on Tuesday, Selinger fielded questions on several topics including infrastructure, downtown development and funding for the Keystone Centre.
Last week, MNP and the Brandon Chamber of Commerce presented the findings of the latest Business Climate Survey. When asked what the city’s next construction priority should be, business leaders overwhelmingly responded with infrastructure (42 per cent). The Daly Overpass on 18th Street, which creates a bottleneck situation for motorists at times, is something many in the community would like to see addressed.
"We have to work out with the City of Brandon, how we make sure the Eighth Street bridge can take some of the additional traffic as we improve the Daly Overpass," Selinger said.
Portions of the Eighth Street bridge date back to the 1930s and the bridge is in need of major upgrades. It is entirely a city project, while 18th Street is provincial. As reported in the Sun earlier this month, Dillon Consulting is in the final stages of preliminary design for a combined vehicular/ pedestrian bridge at the existing location.
Selinger said in the meantime, the province is prepared to do some of the "preparatory work to acquire rights of ways and other improvements" on the Daly Overpass to make traffic flow better.
At a State of the Province address back in 2009, former Premier Gary Doer told the crowd that the Daly Overpass should be the next major infrastructure investment in Brandon. He went on to say the province would begin a feasibility study of how to move from the 2026 date for refurbishment to a much earlier timeline.
Selinger couldn’t provide a timeline on the project, but said an earlier date is still the goal.
Meanwhile, Brandon City Council put its support behind a recommendation to provide an additional $2 million for Keystone Centre roof repairs, on the condition the Province of Manitoba matches the contribution.
When asked if the province will step up with another $2 million, Selinger said the government will consider the request.
"I don’t think we’ll say ‘no’ because the Keystone Centre is a huge economic generator in this region," Selinger said. "We’ve made a very significant commitment to it, both in terms of capital and operating, and we always try to find a way to partner to keep that asset serving the community well."
Since 1999, the province has invested about $13 million in the Keystone Centre, including $1.3 million by this spring.
City funds for the project would not come out until its 2014 budget, which Selinger said gives the province time to plan as well.
"We’d work with them to see what’s possible," he said. "I’m not pre-empting any future budget, we’re working on this one right now, that would be the next one ... But it’s something that we will take under serious consideration."
Another topic of discussion was Assiniboine Community College. There is still no timeline or cost for Phase 3 of the college’s relocation to the North Hill.
"ACC’s in discussion with Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation on how the site plan can be configured in a way that’ll allow for future development," he said. "The site plan, properly done, is the key to unlocking future potential there."
Selinger said he is proud of the work done so far at the North Hill campus and said the project is still on the province’s radar.
"I’d like to see progress, for sure, every year, but it’s when everybody comes together and has an agreement," he said.
Downtown development was another point of interest at the meeting. Selinger said if the city decides to reconsider its decision to slash $50,000 from urban renewal funding in the 2013 budget, the provincial funds will still be there.
"We’re trying not to be prescriptive to the city, if they want to go back to the original amount, we will be there with them," he said. "That’s not a problem. If they want to go higher, we can have that discussion."
Since 2008, the city has provided $250,000 annually to Renaissance Brandon, the city’s downtown development corporation. Council recently voted to reduce the funding to $200,000 in the 2013 budget.
The full loss will be $100,000, as the province matches the dollars the city provides.
Coun. Murray Blight (Victoria) gave notice at the end of Monday night’s meeting that he will bring forward a motion on Feb. 4 to reconsider the reduction in funding for Renaissance Brandon.
Selinger also said he was disappointed that Brandon’s bid for the 2017 Canada Summer Games was rejected.
"We really wanted it to happen in Brandon," he said. "We looked at the option of splitting it, we think we could handle that in Manitoba."
Now that Brandon is no longer an option, mainly due to the fact that the city is lacking an eight-lane pool, Selinger said it’s on to "Plan B" to see how they can make sure the Games stay in Manitoba.
"There is a group through Sport Manitoba that’s looking at continuing to have a Manitoba bid," he said. "Now they’re in discussions with the City of Winnipeg to see if they’re interested … What we want to do, is do the Games because it’s a great opportunity for Manitoba, wherever they’re held."