Portage and Main changes a 'vanity project' for Brian Bowman, says rival

A candidate running for mayor of Winnipeg says Brian Bowman is being "sneaky" by using the city's road renewal budget to pay for consultants to redesign the Portage and Main intersection.

Jenny Motkaluk slams incumbent for spending millions on consultant fees out of roads budget

Jenny Motkaluk holds up the leaflet she received with her municipal tax bill that included information about the city's record spending in 2018 on road renewal. She said $2 million of the $116 road renewal budget was spent improperly on consultant fees to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians. (Travis Golby/CBC)

A candidate running for mayor of Winnipeg says Brian Bowman is being "sneaky" by using the city's road renewal budget to pay for consultants to redesign the Portage and Main intersection.

Standing at the famous corner Tuesday, Jenny Motkaluk told reporters she sees Bowman's record spending on road renewal as "smoke and mirrors math."

Winnipeg is spending a record amount on road renewal, $116 million, in the 2018 budget. Of the road budget, $2 million will be spent on Portage and Main rehabilitation on top of $1.5 million from the 2018 capital budget.

"When the mayor is bragging that he's spending record money on road repair some of that money isn't going toward repairing our roads at all," Motkaluk said.

"It's really going to consultants and engineers who are going to make traffic worse at one of our busiest intersections."

​As laid out in council minutes, this year councillors approved $1.5 million to pay for architecture and engineering services, $500,000 for new sidewalks, curbs and other assets at Portage and Main and $1.5 million on assessments of the concourse below the intersection.

Kelly McCrae, a spokesperson for Bowman's re-election campaign, said the mayor remains committed to building downtown — to make it safer and more accessible.

"It is important to note that no authority has been provided by council to the public service to proceed with allowing pedestrians to cross the intersection," wrote McCrae in an email. Bowman declined an interview Tuesday.

Motkaluk said it's wrong to spend a single dollar out of the road budget on planning to reopen one of the city's most important intersections.

"When you tell him you want more money for road repair he's going to sneak his vanity project into the budget and hope the public doesn't notice the difference," she said.

Based on her conversations with voters, Motkaluk said she believes the majority of Winnipeggers do not support the idea of allowing people to cross above ground at Portage and Main.

In 2014, Brian Bowman campaigned on reopening the intersection to pedestrians. In October 2017, Winnipeg's chief administrative officer Doug McNeil recommended the city spend $3.5 million that year to begin planning work for the project.

with files from Bartley Kives