Manitoba

Winnipeg Transit to be hit hardest by reopening Portage and Main, study suggests

A long-awaited Portage and Main traffic study concludes reopening the intersection to pedestrians would increase travel times for Winnipeg Transit and pose safety risks to pedestrians — but won't have a significant effect on north-south motor-vehicle traffic.

Dillon Consulting also concludes pedestrian safety would be at risk - but half of vehicles won't be affected

Winnipeg Transit service through Portage and Main would slow if the intersection is reopened to pedestrians, a traffic study concluded. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A long-awaited Portage and Main traffic study concludes reopening the intersection to pedestrians would increase travel times for Winnipeg Transit and pose safety risks to pedestrians — but won't have a significant effect on north-south motor-vehicle traffic.

The City of Winnipeg paid Dillon Consulting $134,000 to study the transportation ramifications of reopening Portage and Main and come up with a rough cost estimate of the work that would be required to return pedestrians to the intersection after an absence of nearly 40 years.

The first draft of the study was submitted to the city in November 2016. A final version, published by the city on Friday, pegs the cost of removing barricades and improving the intersection for Winnipeg Transit at $11.6 million.

Winnipeg's top public servant says the city ought to spend up to $3.5 million this year to begin the complex process of reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. 2:16

The city is poised to spend $3.5 million to come up with a more accurate project estimate, conduct more engineering and begin fixing infrastructure both above and below Portage and Main, according to a report obtained by CBC News earlier this week and made public on Friday.

That report references aspects of the Dillon study, which suggests reopening the intersection has both pros and cons for Winnipeg.

The report states Winnipeg Transit would suffer the worst from changes to the intersection

"Transit service will be impacted during the [afternoon] peak hour with clear increases in travel time for buses moving through the area, particularly those that make turning movements at Portage and Main," the study concludes.

It also notes there will be increases in personal-vehicle traffic as well, mainly because cars must yield to pedestrians as they turn at the intersection.

"This poses a risk to cross-city travel as congestion and variability will increase on average," the study concludes, adding this will also increase the risk of collisions between pedestrians and turning vehicles.

 "This, however, should be balanced with the improvements to mobility for non-auto users and progress towards the city's goals of a multi-modal and sustainable transportation system."

The report also states that 50 per cent of the automobiles passing through the intersection will be "unaffected by the changes, with no difference in travel time."

The report also predicts it will take 12 and a half months of construction to improve Portage and Main.

The city has no immediate plans to reopen the intersection to pedestrians, even though Mayor Brian Bowman made this a campaign pledge in 2014.

Mayor Brian Bowman says Winnipeg must reopen Portage and Main if it does not want to get stuck in the past. (Trevor Brine/CBC)
The mayor suggested the city must strike a balance between urbanists who want Portage and Main reopened immediately and people opposed to reopening the intersection at any cost.

"I know people are very polarized on this. This is an attempt to try to bring people together in a thoughtful way," Bowman said, reiterating the need to work with private Portage and Main property owners who are making their own improvements to the intersection.

"We have new development to the left of us. We have new development to the right of us. Right here, right now, lingering in the middle and struck in 1979, is Portage and Main," the mayor said.

"Now is not the time to hitch a ride in a DeLorean. Now is the time for common sense, pragmatism and collaboration."

Executive policy committee will consider the $3.5-million funding request on Wednesday.

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.