City hall to study opening Portage and Main to pedestrians

On Wednesday, city council voted to look at the implications of opening up Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians.

Downtown BIZ wants intersection open to pedestrians, some city councillors oppose move

The City of Winnipeg has voted to look at opening Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrian traffic. (Google Street View/Around This Town)

On Wednesday, city council voted in favour of looking at the implications of opening up Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians.

The intersection has been long-closed to foot traffic, and Mayor Brian Bowman campaigned on opening up the intersection.

On Wednesday, councillors heard from Winnipeg BIZ's Stefano Grande, who urged them to open it.

"Critical to the growth of downtown is making sure that Chinatown is connected to the Waterfront. Waterfront is connected to the Forks. Forks is connected to Portage and allowing people just to walk freely," said Grandge. "We are in a different place today, and we have to think about how we walk around … What is our vision for the next 30 years?"

He said the area is confusing for visitors and pointed to tourists in town for the FIFA Women's World Cup who couldn't figure out how to get across the street in the area. 

"Today wasn't about opening it up, it was about doing our due diligence," said Bowman. "The biggest takeaway for me that I wanted to see was an endorsement to have a conversation with the relevant stakeholders – probably the property owners in the surrounding area."

Bowman said the motion will have the public service do just that.

"Let's have the conversation — traffic flows, pedestrian safety — our downtown is not static," he said. "It's evolved a lot over the last number of years."

Bowman said opening the area wouldn't be a short-term effort, but Wednesday's motion was "an important step."

He said he didn't have any recent updates on whether businesses in the area were on board to opening up the intersection, but he was sensitive to business owners' needs.

Coun. Jeff Browaty and Coun. Scott Gillingham both opposed the motion, with Browaty saying it's not a priority and it`s not worth the tax payer dollars to open it.

Ultimately, council voted 14 to 2 to study the implications of opening up the intersection. There is no timeline for the public service to finish the report on how opening the barricades would work.

The intersection was closed decades ago as part of a development deal to build an underground mall. The barricades were meant to guide pedestrian traffic through the mall.


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