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More cash for growing transport facility
Published: January 7th 2008
Source: The Leader-Post
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The province is expected to put more infrastructure money into a proposed transportation hub west of Regina as plans for the project grow, Highways and Infrastructure Minister Wayne Elhard says.

The Saskatchewan Party government has already agreed to commit about $27 million to the initial $93-million plan involving the relocation of CP's rail yards from downtown Regina as well as upgrades to Pinkie Road and other roadwork, Elhard said.

But the project -- which the government is now calling a "global transportation hub" instead of an "intermodal facility" -- is getting bigger, Elhard said.

The minister said an announcement next week will reveal more details about how the scope has expanded, and what role the provincial government will have in the next phase of the project.

The province's money will still be targeted at infrastructure, such as upgrades to roads that support the project, and not spent on private companies' facilities, he said.

"What we knew (when the project was announced in late 2007) was CP rail wanted to relocate their rail yards west of the city," Elhard said.

"Since then, the project has grown dramatically," he said, pointing to Loblaw Companies Ltd.'s plan to build a $200-million distribution centre west of the city, and potential interest from other private sector players.

"That puts a lot of extra pressure on the infrastructure than we had anticipated for the area," Elhard said.

But the minister acknowledged that prior to Tuesday, the government hadn't publicly announced how much it was willing to contribute to even the initial $93 million portion of the project. Elhard said the province decided about a year ago it would spend $27 million -- matching the federal government's promised contribution -- but never formally announced the decision.

His comments Tuesday came after the Opposition NDP issued a news release demanding an update on how much the intermodal facility will cost.

New Democrat MLA Deb Higgins said she was surprised to hear the government has known for some time it will spend at least $27 million -- and is now making the public wait to hear how much more could be invested.

While the economic development is welcome, the government needs to be more forthcoming about a project that involves taxpayer money, she said.

"We've been trying to find some answers over the last little while just about dollar value and we're just not getting any," Higgins said. "We need to know what the investment is and what the provincial government is planning and willing to put into this project."

Elhard declined to offer further details Tuesday, but promised the investment will bring big returns.

"If I was an investing person and I could put a buck on the table and get eight dollars back, I probably would make that investment," he told reporters.


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