Winnipeg takes another step toward Kenaston widening with St. James Bridge replacement study

Winnipeg is trying to figure out how to move 70,000 vehicles a day over the Assiniboine River while the St. James Bridges are under construction as part of the Kenaston Boulevard widening project.

Engineers must figure out how to move 70,000 cars a day over Assiniboine while bridges are rebuilt

A long-awaited project, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, includes the expansion of the St. James Bridges to eight lanes. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Winnipeg is trying to figure out how to move 70,000 vehicles a day over the Assiniboine River while the St. James bridges are under construction as part of the Kenaston Boulevard widening project.

On Friday, the city started looking for a consulting firm capable of designing and costing out the widening of Route 90 between Taylor Avenue in Tuxedo and Ness Avenue in St. James.

The long-awaited project, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, involves the expansion of Kenaston Boulevard to six lanes, the expansion of the St. James Bridges to eight lanes and the acquisition of all or part of 136 properties, including 30 structures located on Kapyong Barracks

While the city settled on a general plan for the widening in 2012, the detailed design was on hold due to the dispute over Kapyong Barracks, which now appears to be heading toward a resolution.

The city is now planning in earnest to have a shovel-ready design in place in order to capitalize on a potential offer of federal funding as well to replace the St. James bridges before they require substantial repairs.

"The St. James bridge has got to the end of its life cycle and we have to get on that project as well," said Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), whose ward borders Route 90.

"We have to be moving forward with this. This road here has completely failed regarding traffic flow. So it needs to be able to move traffic efficiently rather than spilling into the neighbourhood."

The key focus of the study, which is slated to be complete in 2019, is to determine how to realign the St. James bridges in a way that doesn't cause widespread traffic disruptions.

"For the bridges, we're looking at how can we align them while we're trying to move traffic through," said Brad Neirinck, engineering manager for the city's public works department. "Seventy thousand vehicles a day is a lot of traffic. It's the busiest location in the city."

The widening study also calls for the design of new bike-and-pedestrian paths alongside Route 90 as well as across the busy artery. An earlier study suggested the city build an overpass at Lockston Avenue, north of Corydon Avenue. 

"There will be a lot of traffic coming through there. There already is. So how are we going to make sure this really large road doesn't completely separate the neighbourhood? How are we going to get people across?" asked Orlikow.

Even with a study in hand in 2019, the resolution of the Kapyong dispute and federal and provincial funding in place, it's unlikely construction could begin before 2021. Neirinck said the engineering requirements for the project are so complex, it would be unwise to forecast a construction start date.

The city has put aside $3.4 million for engineering, to date. There is no firm cost yet for the total construction project.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food 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 both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.