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Summer construction of rail park slated at sprawling Winnipeg inland port

Winnipeg boasts access to ports on West and East coasts, St. Lawrence Seaway

A freight train. (Photo: Shutterstock/Steve Boyko)

A rail park serving an inland port in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has been fast-tracked for development in light of the potential Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger and Canada’s efforts to expand its global trade presence. 

Construction of the $2.5 billion CentrePort Canada Rail Park will begin this summer, and the first phase could be completed as early as next year. The rail park will be the third freight transportation serving the inland port, which is served by truck, air and rail. 

CentrePort Canada and the provincial government of Manitoba awarded the development of the rail park to Focus Equities and its founder, Ken Mariash, following a request for proposals issued in 2018. Focus Equities is a real estate development firm that specializes in large-scale developments in Canada and the U.S. Recent projects include the Aurum Energy Park in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as residential developments in Victoria, British Columbia, and retail-related developments Calgary, Alberta.

The port has proximity to U.S. Interstate 29, the TransCanada Highway and the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, and it is served by railways CP (NYSE: CP), CN (NYSE: CNI) and BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B). Sitting on 20,000 acres, with over 2,000 acres in active development, CentrePort Canada calls itself the largest trimodal inland port in North America.

One of the greatest assets of the rail park will be its location, Mariash told FreightWaves. The rail park’s location is in the center of Canada, and customers would have access to Canadian West Coast and East Coast ports, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Northwest Passage. A merger between CP and KCS would also provide access to the U.S. Gulf Coast.

(Image: CentrePort Canada)

“Sending agricultural products south is a piece of cake. It gets consolidated in Winnipeg, incoming from east, west, south. … [Winnipeg is] really well located in terms of distance to the waters from the West Coast and also East Coast. And there is quick access to Minneapolis, into Chicago and then down through Kansas [City Southern] to the Mexican ports,” Mariash said.

Winnipeg’s other asset is that the lower costs of living for the area benefits businesses that would need to build facilities nearby the inland port. Winnipeg also has a history of being home to major industrial development, but labor disputes in the early to mid-20th century discouraged businesses from developing further, according to Mariash.

The rail park will be built in three stages. The infrastructure is already in place, and so the first facilities at the rail park could be ready for move-in as early as next year, Mariash said. 

“The interchanges are all built, the rail is all there, ready to go. Setting up the infrastructure is the hard part,” Mariash said. 

In a March 25 release, Mariash said, “The fast-tracked land development approval process in place within CentrePort allows us to move companies very quickly through the permitting process.” Potential tenants could include logistics companies, food supply chain suppliers, heavy raw material processors, bus and machinery manufacturers and mining and mining-related companies. 

(Image: CentrePort Canada)

Other companies functioning at CentrePort Canada look forward to the rail park’s creation.

“As a transport company that provides a wide range of transportation, warehousing and logistics services throughout North America, Bison Transport Inc. recognizes the many benefits of a rail park at CentrePort Canada,” said Bison Transport President and CEO Rob Penner in a release. Bison Transport is headquartered at CentrePort Canada. “The rail park project really solidifies the trimodal inland concept of CentrePort Canada, where goods can move seamlessly between rail, truck and air cargo.”

Winnipeg also serves as the terminus to a proposed railroad connecting Canada and Mexico. That project, last reported on by FreightWaves in April 2021, is still in the planning stages, according to a January BNAmericas article.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.