Mayor wants Portage and Main open before Canada Summer Games

Mayor Brian Bowman says he'd like to see Portage and Main open to pedestrians before the Canada Summer Games are held in Winnipeg in 2017.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi got lost, other mayors decry walkway under iconic intersection

Portage & Main has been closed to pedestrians since 1979. Mayor Brian Bowman wants to see it open before July 28, 2017. (Trevor Dineen/CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman says he wants Portage and Main open to pedestrians before the Canada Summer Games are held in Winnipeg in 2017.

Portage Avenue and Main Street has been closed to foot traffic since 1979, when a deal was struck between the city and the owners of properties connected the city's subterranean weather-protected walkway system.

With that deal set to expire, city planning and property officials are working on a plan to allow pedestrians to cross before the Canada Summer Games, the mayor said Friday.

"We are having good discussions with the property owners and we're making really good progress on that," Bowman said at RBC Convention Centre, where the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference is taking place.

"The next time we have so many people here for such a huge event, it would be great for them to be able to cross."

Bowman said several mayors who visited Winnipeg this week were aghast at Portage and Main on Thursday evening, when he took them on a tour of the intersection.

"There was unanimity from all that were walking with us that it's ridiculous in this day and age, when you have so much positive growth going on around that intersection, to not open it up to pedestrians," the mayor said.

Bowman said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi got lost in the walkway below the intersection and called it most hostile to pedestrians in Canada.

"He went down to the tunnel. He said he was 1,000 per cent lost and really struggled to find his way to the surface," Bowman said. "I think we can do a lot more with Canada's most iconic intersection."

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said while he did not get lost below Portage and Main, he too found it disappointing.

"When you're trying to create a downtown that's vibrant and (has) a great street life to it, your major intersection's got to be a hub of major pedestrian activity, not a zone to be avoided," Iveson said.

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.