Manitoba

Portage and Main debate revisited by Winnipeg downtown committee

A City of Winnipeg committee is asking officials for more information about potentially reopening the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians.

Council committee asks city officials for more information about possibly reopening intersection

CBC News asked some people at Winnipeg's Portage and Main if the famous intersection should be reopened to pedestrians, as a council committee starts re-examining the issue. 1:07

A City of Winnipeg committee is asking officials for more information about potentially reopening the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians.

The debate over Winnipeg's famous intersection at Portage Avenue and Main Street resurfaced at a meeting of the city's standing policy committee on downtown development, heritage and riverbank management on Monday morning. (CBC)
The blustery debate over Winnipeg's famous — and often windy — intersection resurfaced at a meeting of the city's standing policy committee on downtown development, heritage and riverbank management on Monday morning.

Councillors on the committee heard from city staff as they look at reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians — and the implications of such a move on traffic, business and transit operations in the area.

In 1976, the city signed an agreement with private developers to open an underground concourse linking shopping malls under the intersection.

The agreement included a 50-year deal to permanently close the street-level pedestrian crossings.

Property owners on the four corners of the intersection have agreements with the city to keep the barricades up until 2019, but there are options available that could see the corners remain closed for another 40 years.

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      During his election campaign this past fall, current Mayor Brian Bowman promised to tear down the pedestrian barricades at Portage and Main by 2019.

      On Monday, committee members directed city staff to provide more background information on what closed the intersection in the first place, as well as the legal implications of reopening it.

      "I would like to see it reopened but, again, we need the legal opinions first," St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, who chairs the downtown committee, told reporters.

      "We're not going to have a half-million-dollar study or some study done, and then find that one of the property owners has unilaterally invoked their right to keep the thing closed."

      North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty says he doesn't think it's worth the effort to reopen Portage and Main, noting that nearly 80,000 vehicles drive through the intersection every day.

      "In my mind, there are far greater priorities in our city," he said.

      Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi argued that keeping Portage and Main closed to pedestrians kills a part of the downtown.

      At the same time, she admitted that there is a very delicate legal aspect to reopening the intersection, so care should be taken going forward on the issue.

      Mayes said he wants to know if a future rapid transit leg along Main Street would be affected if the intersection is reopened.

      The committee was told that 44 transit routes run through the Portage and Main area.

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