Portage and Main reopening possible, albeit with traffic impacts, city study says

A city-commissioned study of Portage and Main concluded it will be possible to reopen Winnipeg's most famous intersection, but not without impacts to Winnipeg Transit and private motor-vehicle traffic.

Public works director says it would take 2 years just to get started on city's most famous intersection

A city-commissioned study says it's possible to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians, albeit with traffic impacts. (CBC)

A city-commissioned study of Portage and Main concluded it will be possible to reopen Winnipeg's most famous intersection, but not without impacts to Winnipeg Transit and private motor-vehicle traffic.

Public works director Lester Deane said a traffic analysis of the Portage Avenue and Main Street intersection has given the city an idea of the impacts associated with opening it to pedestrians. Portage and Main was closed to foot traffic in 1979.

"It's no surprise. We know if we introduce pedestrian phases, it's going to have an impact on traffic. There'll be a delay to some of the transit service and a delay to some of the travel times of vehicles, being able to go through the intersection," Deane said at city hall during a break in a public works committee meeting about Winnipeg's budget for the next year.

"We believe we can open the intersection. It's just a question of having a good plan going forward and working with the owners [of properties adjacent Portage and Main] so they're comfortable with overall picture."

There is no money to reopen Portage and Main in the 2017 budget. Mayor Brian Bowman, who once stated he wanted to see the intersection open to pedestrians in time for the Canada Summer Games in July 2017, said on budget day that negotiations are still ongoing between the city and the owners of private properties adjacent the intersection.

Deane said even if those negotiations are successful — and money is available — it would take about two years to begin the work. The city must consider nuances such as safety and accessibility issues, he said.

​"We know we can do it. Now it's a question of painting the big picture and then getting the costs associated with delivering that," he said.

The Dillon Consulting traffic analysis, which has not been made public, includes a high-level cost projection, said Deane, adding more work would have to be done to obtain a more precise estimate.

Deane said the city may need to acquire some private property at the southeast corner of the intersection, where the Bank of Montreal's property and a staircase come right up to the street.

"That is the tightest corner," Deane said. "The Bank of Montreal owns pretty well right to the edge of our existing infrastructure."

Deane said he is not among the officials in talks with the Portage and Main property owners.

The mayor has hinted at a Portage and Main reopening plan that would involve both private and public money.

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.