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Winnipeg asks 2nd consultant to study reopening of Portage and Main

The City of Winnipeg has hired a second firm to study the reopening of Portage and Main to pedestrians, bringing the consulting tab for the project up to $186,000.

Price tag for outside help on mayoral campaign pledge reaches $186K; report due in October

Portage and Main has been closed to pedestrians since 1979. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

The City of Winnipeg has hired a second firm to study the reopening of Portage and Main to pedestrians, bringing the consulting tab for the project up to $186,000.

This summer, the city asked Vancouver consulting firm Perkins+Will "to help create a vision for Portage and Main to make it more pedestrian-friendly, to explore new urban-design opportunities, and to review the public spaces and support private investment," Winnipeg communications director Felicia Wiltshire said in a statement.

The firm was awarded a $70,000 sole-sourced contract to conduct the work. That's on top of a $116,000 contract awarded last year to Dillon Consulting, which was asked to conduct a study of "options to reintroduce pedestrian crossings" on three or four corners of the Portage and Main intersection.

Dillon was asked to come up with a cost estimate for the work and was also expected to determine how reopening the intersection would affect traffic signals, motor-vehicle traffic and Winnipeg Transit. 

A second firm needed to be hired to conduct more of a design vision, Wiltshire said.

"When we began exploring the opportunity of opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians, we heard very clearly from property owners at all four corners that they wanted to see the city come forward with a vision for the intersection that was about more than just taking down the barricades," she said.

"The work that Dillon had done for us on the intersection focused on the work involved in removing the physical barriers and the potential impacts to traffic. However, we still required more work to be done on the other aspects of the intersection improvements."

The Dillon study has not been released. Wiltshire said "the entire Dillon traffic study" will be made public when a report about reopening Portage and Main comes before council, likely this October.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman made a campaign pledge to reopen Portage and Main. (Cliff Simpson/CBC)
Mayor Brian Bowman made a campaign promise to reopen Portage and Main when he ran for mayor in 2014. In 2016, he expressed a desire to see the intersection open in July of this year and later expressed displeasure when former public works director Lester Deane said it would take several years to conduct the work.

Heading into his final year in office before the October 2018 municipal election, the mayor praised chief administrative officer Doug McNeil for studying the reopening in greater detail.

"Under the leadership of our CAO, the administration has been working hard to not only study traffic movement, but look at people movement, design, transit needs and options, as well as continue to collaborate with the businesses owners at the four corners to collaborate with their ongoing work at and below grade," the mayor said in a statement.

North Kildonan Coun. Browaty opposes the reopening. (Gary Solilak/CBC)
North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who opposes the reopening of the intersection to pedestrians, accused the mayor's office of micromanaging the public service by ordering up a second consulting contract.

"Obviously the original results were not to the mayor's liking," Browaty said in a telephone interview. 

"I think council should have had the opportunity to review the Dillon study before additional funds were expended on potentially fine-grain details of designing an open intersection."

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.