For Winnipeggers sick of being stuck in traffic near Polo Park, there may be some relief on the way – if they’re patient enough.
“I know that people have complained about it for a long time now, so there does need to be some improvement,” said Cory Einarson, who works on St. James Street. “Whether it’s widening lanes or whatever can help traffic flow faster.”
The City of Winnipeg has embarked on a $30 million plan to ease traffic congestion in the area, including along St. James Street.
Winnipegger Penny Kartzmark said the first thing she thinks when she heads to the area is, “Is it really necessary to come down here?”
She said she avoids the area because of heavy traffic congestion, and now, city officials are hoping to change that.
'They're not going to improve it at all, I just can't see it. It's a Mickey Mouse project.' - Barry Fraser, Polo Park area resident
And she’s not alone. Elaine Bahuaud was in the area shopping on Tuesday and said it’s difficult to get around in the area.
“[It’s] too congested. There’s only two lanes on St. James. I just find it – it’s quite heavy with traffic,” said Bahuaud.
The city is planning on extending and widening St. Matthews Avenue from Route 90 to Empress Street, as well as upgrading St. James Street from Maroons Road to Ellice Avenue.
Sidewalks in the area will also get a boost.
“There is a lot of traffic congestion. In order to improve and make things safer, we think we need the additional capacity,” said Lester Deane, with the City of Winnipeg’s public works department.
Some people not convinced
On Tuesday, the city held public consultations before construction begins, but the project will go ahead regardless.
Darlene Boettcher refuses to shop at Polo Park at peak hours and welcomes any effort to speed things up, but wonders if there is a simpler and cheaper way to address the problem.
"I still wonder about the possibility of one-way streets being part of the solution," she said,
But city staff say businesses loathe one-way streets.
Alan Castel isn't so sure the changes will unclog the roads. He lives in the area and thinks traffic will still bottle up from nearby areas that don’t get improved.
“We've got a keyhole look at something where I think we need to kind of open the door and take a step back and look at the whole project before we start spending money on pockets and not realizing that those pockets are attached in some fashion," he said.
Barry Fraser, who lives just a few blocks away from Polo Park, was more blunt
"They're not going to improve it at all, I just can't see it. It's a Mickey Mouse project," he said.
The city faces a challenge to buy out landowners in order to widen the streets but the plan is to begin construction in spring 2014 and wrap up by fall 2015.
An additional $10 million for the project could be added to the project if city council approves it.