Manitoba

Portage and Main transportation study remains stuck in municipal traffic

Mayor Brian Bowman won't commit to the release of a $116,000 study into the transportation ramifications of reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

Mayor won't commit to release of city-commissioned document that cost $116,000

Portage and Main has been closed to pedestrians since 1979. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Mayor Brian Bowman won't commit to the release of a $116,000 study into the transportation ramifications of reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

Winnipeg's most well-known intersection has been closed to pedestrians since 1979, when foot traffic was diverted underground through the weather-protected walkway system. Bowman pledged to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians when he ran for mayor in 2014, but progress since then has been slow.

In 2016, the city hired Dillon Consulting to conduct a study of the "options to reintroduce pedestrian crossings on three or four legs of the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street. At the time, Bowman was still hopeful the work could be completed in July 2017.

According to the request for proposals to conduct the study, Dillon was expected to determine how reopening the intersection would affect traffic signals, motor-vehicle traffic and Winnipeg Transit. Dillon was also expected to identify safety risks, technical requirements and a rough cost estimate for the work.​

After the study was completed and presented to the city, most of its contents have not been made public. Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman has stated repeatedly that the city is still working on a report that will determine what needs to be done to reopen the intersection.

Following the first executive policy committee meeting of July 2017 — the month the mayor hoped the intersection would reopen — Bowman declined to commit to the release of the Dillon study at any point in the future.

"It's not one I can comment on. I haven't seen it," Bowman said Wednesday at city hall, committing only to the release of a report by city staff. "I would like to see as much information made public in the administrative report when it comes forward."

North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who has been trying to obtain his own copy of the Dillon study since January, repeated his call for the release of the document.

"As elected officials, we have to make decisions based on science and based on the information we have. The public deserves to have that information, too," said Browaty, who opposes the idea of reopening the intersection to pedestrians.

"This would affect tens of thousands of residents. I hear from people all the time that say this information should be public."

Browaty filed a freedom-of-information request for the study but was denied. He has since complained to the provincial ombudsman.

Browaty said the city's failure to release the Portage and Main study is inconsistent with another one of Bowman's campaign pledges — to make the City of Winnipeg more open and transparent.

Mayor Brian Bowman won't commit to the release of a $116,000 study into the transportation ramifications of reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. 1:43