Engineering report says waterproofing membrane, most mechanical and
electrical systems need replacing
Portage and Main concourse overhaul could hit $47M
THE City of Winnipeg was once warned the full cost to repair and update the
underground concourse at Portage Avenue and Main Street could reach as high
as $46.8 million.
That potential tab includes $12.6 million to repair the underground over
the next 10 years ($16.8 million with inflation), according to the “Portage
& Main Underground Concourse Facility Condition Assessment report” written
by SMS Engineering Ltd. in May 2019. The cost could soar another $15
million to $20 million higher, if surface work to get access to the roof
membrane is included, raising the total price to $32.6 million ($46.8
million with inflation), the report adds.
The report cautions that the roof membrane price is a preliminary estimate.
The city stresses there’s still work to do to pin down a final price.
“At this point in time, those estimates… do not include actual costs or
contingencies,” said Kalen Qually, a city spokesman, in an email.
The engineering report was posted online with a new request for proposals.
The RFP seeks a consultant to design the most immediate and critical
underground repairs at the Portage and Main concourse, which opened in
1979, and determine a more refined cost estimate for the work.
That plan will address repairs that are required over the next five to 10
years to keep the concourse “accessible and available to the public while
the city continues to develop a more comprehensive investment strategy,”
The head of council’s property and development committee said the need for
repairs at the aging concourse is obvious.
“There’s a lot of work that we know needs to be done. Of course, any time
we have (a price estimate) that high it is a bit of a shock… We would have
to look at this closely,” said Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre).
Gilroy said she believes some of the repairs are critical, including those
that address safety.
The engineering report details many problems at the aging concourse,
including a Portage Avenue skylight that “leaks during any major rain
It concludes the waterproofing membrane, most of the mechanical systems and
most of the electrical systems are “beyond their theoretical service life” and
should be replaced. It also found the site’s “obsolete” fire alarm doesn’t
meet current code or life safety standards.
Investments in Portage and Main have become a hot topic, especially since
Winnipeggers voted against reopening the intersection’s aboveground
crossing to pedestrians in 2018.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), a former property and development chairman,
stressed the underground repairs can’t be ignored, even if pedestrian
access never resumes.
“It’s not like if we just agreed to crossing at grade, we could have
avoided all this cost. It’s some aging infrastructure that needs to be
fixed up,” said Mayes.
The RFP calls for detailed drawings to repair leakage to concrete
foundation walls, a complete roofing system replacement and a skylight
replacement at 210 Portage Ave. It also calls for repair and/or replacement
plans for some electrical, pipe, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air
conditioning system), and fire protection elements. While the contractor is
expected to provide a schedule for the work, the RFP notes “the city has no
obligation to proceed with the construction services… until sufficient
funding is available.”
Qually confirmed funding has not been approved for the construction work at
this point. The city expects to award the contract in March 2021.
Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) said the public service will also seek
a second consultant in January to address “intersection revitalization” for
Portage and Main, which he said would look at sidewalk enhancements and the
renewal of the roof membrane.
However, Browaty stressed he believes the city must complete access
agreements with property owners at the intersection before it sets aside
new funding for the concourse.
“I don’t think we should be spending a single dime right now, until we
figure out what the sharing agreement is going to be with our partners,
beyond the absolute bare minimum in maintenance to keep it open,” he said.
Browaty, who was a vocal opponent of reopening Portage and Main to
pedestrians, said he agrees some underground upgrades and repairs are
Joyanne.pursaga(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga
*(Portage & Main all over again...)*
Plebiscite should decide speed limit question, councillor says
Coun. Shawn Nason hopes to put to rest the issue of reducing the speed
limit on residential streets, by calling for a plebiscite in 2022, when
voters elect a new mayor and council.
"This has been an ongoing dialogue in the City of Winnipeg likely before I
was elected," said Nason. "There’s lots of talk of is it 30 km/h? Is it 40
km/h? Or do we maintain the 50 km/h? My residents in Transcona have said
very loudly and clearly they want to maintain the current limit."
Nason said a plebiscite is the best way to let Winnipeggers have a say in
the matter. He added that he supports maintaining the 50 km/h speed limit
and believes the public does, too.
"Residential neighbourhoods in the City of Winnipeg have been 50 km/h
forever and a day and there doesn’t seem to be a want and desire by the
mass majority to make any changes of that nature, nor to spend the money it
would take to do such an undertaking," he said.
The speed limit on residential areas isn’t the problem, said Nason, it’s
that drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings.
"Safe operation on the streets, that is where the biggest challenges come
from on our residential streets," he said.
"People need to drive for conditions and be aware that people might not be
aware of their surroundings. We’re driving two-tonne vehicles, we need to
take the abundance of caution that those who are riding bikes, playing
street hockey, might not be alert and aware of what’s coming at them."
The idea of reducing the speed limit on residential streets was raised at
the Dec. 4 public works committee. Nason said he believes the committee
chairman, Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), wants to spend $1.8 million to
lower the speed limit to 30 km/h and put up signage in residential areas.
"If we do that citywide, that’s an exponential amount of money," said Nason.
Nason plans to present his idea for a plebiscite at the next East
Kildonan-Transcona community committee meeting on Jan. 5. Two of three
councillors must approve the idea for it to be considered by other city
"This will go up to the mayor and his committee if they look at this or
accept this as information, I do hope they give it some consideration."
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Province asks city to redirect federal transit funding
THE Manitoba government is seeking to divert millions of federal dollars
earmarked for Winnipeg Transit to support “green” projects around the
However, the move would require Winnipeg council approval, and Mayor Brian
Bowman is not on board.
In September, city council did support a provincial request to transfer
$321 million of future Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program funds
from a public transit stream to a green infrastructure category. That
change was meant to accommodate the federal share for the first two phases
of a $1.8-billion North End sewage treatment plant upgrade.
Council’s vote included a “condition” the province seek no further
reductions to Winnipeg’s remaining ICIP transit cash.
On Thursday, Municipal Relations Minister Rochelle Squires confirmed the
province is now asking the city to support a transfer of the remaining $204
million of potential federal transit funding to green projects around the
The $204 million could trigger about $534 million of total transit funding,
should the money stay in place and all three governments agree to an ICIP
Squires said the funds should be transferred because the federal government
wants to allocate all ICIP funds by December 2021. The minister said
Winnipeg would need to complete its transit master plan and an application
for federal funding to access the transit funds.
Squires said she doesn’t expect that will happen prior to the end of next
“If the transit stream money isn’t allocated into green, it will go
unutilized… It could be for any green project in the province, and it’s
either going to be lapsed money or spent money on green projects,” she
said, stressing the province does support public transit, in general.
“If there were a transit application in front of me, I would be giving
serious consideration to that,” said Squires.
The minister confirmed a city council resolution is needed to support the
She did not confirm exactly which green projects the new funding transfer would
support. The province said it could include more funding for the North End
plant upgrade — if a request for its final phase is submitted and approved
The province and feds are currently being asked to help the city pay for
the first two phases of that upgrade. The work would clear the way for a
third phase that reduces the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in effluent
released by the plant, nutrients that promote algae growth on Lake Winnipeg.
On Thursday, Bowman said he wouldn’t support another transfer of transit
cash, however, especially if it involves shifting money earmarked for
Winnipeg to other municipalities.
“We don’t want to see that money stolen and used elsewhere outside the city
of Winnipeg. It is earmarked for Winnipeg Transit. Transit is incredibly
important to Winnipeggers and the future of our city,” said Bowman.
In contrast to Squires’ timeline, the mayor said he expects a Transit
master plan will be completed in about three months.
“We want to make sure that there are dollars to implement and actually
support the Transit master plan as soon as possible, once that’s done,” he
joyanne.pursaga(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga
School paves way to safety for pedestrians, cyclists
ISAAC Brock School’s early success with an active transportation pilot
project could pave the way for other communities seeking to promote
walking, biking and rolling to class in Winnipeg.
On the first day of the new school year, the Green Action Centre, Winnipeg
School Division, and City of Winnipeg launched a first-of-its-kind “school
street” project in Manitoba, at 1265 Barratt Ave.
In the months since, Barratt Avenue, the street on which the main doors to
the K-9 school are located, has been closed off to the public between 8:30
a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, to protect pedestrians, limit idling near the
school entrance, and encourage alternatives to car commuting.
The oldest students at Isaac Brock are tasked daily with setting up
barricades to block off the stretch during the morning and afternoon rush
hours, when pupils are coming and leaving the grounds.
“It’s really opened our eyes to the fact that we do need to encourage
students to walk to school more,” said Marla Tran, vice-principal at Isaac
Tran admits the pilot has made her more conscious of how she commutes.
She’s started to walk to and from work whenever she can this year, while
the roster of students and staff doing the same has also increased.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 52 per cent of the student
population walked, rolled or biked to school, per a new report authored by
the Green Action Centre. The rest of the families either drove children to
school or sent them on a school bus, both with 24 per cent of the total
share of commuters.
Mid-pilot this fall, GAC surveyed families to gauge experiences. Of the 71
guardian respondents, 15 per cent indicated a shift in their children’s
travel mode to walking, biking or rolling, citing Barratt Avenue being
(Total enrolment is approximately 348, although many families have more
than one child at the school.) There have been challenges with congestion
on surrounding streets, access for residents who live on Barratt Avenue,
and accommodations for students with mobility needs, but Denae Penner, GAC
lead on the project, said changes will be made in the coming months to
improve the pilot for all community members.
Overall, focus groups and surveys yielded positive results about security,
with the majority of students and area residents saying the pilot makes
them feel safer, she said.
“It can be difficult to move away from using your car every day, so we’re
hoping we can do things like this that create a safe opportunity to start
in a small way, incorporating walking into daily routines,” Penner added.
“By offering one safe block where that can happen, I’m hoping we can help
people see the benefits it can have in the long term for their family and
The school street was originally slated to last 60 days. The city extended
it into December, and more recently, until the last day of school in June.
Ken Allen, city spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday the public works
department will consider whether school streets are feasible elsewhere
throughout the rest of the 2020-21 Isaac Brock pilot.
maggie.macintosh(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @macintoshmaggie
MONTREAL - The COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive declines in public
transit ridership across Canada, yet many cities decided to maintain
service levels this year, while others even chose to expand.
Not long after the global health crisis reached Canada, rates of public
transit use across the country dropped by about 85 per cent, according to
prof. Matti Siemiatycki of University of Toronto's geography and planning
The transportation policy expert said there were fears transit agencies in
Canada would have to make drastic service cuts. “Public transit networks
have been among the most impacted sectors in the economy from the
pandemic,” he said in a recent interview.
Instead, provincial and federal funding rescued the country's transit
systems from the verge of collapse, he said. In the United States, however,
public transit systems are facing the "dreaded transit death spiral,”
Siemiatycki said, where cuts lead to further declines in ridership, which
lead to further cuts and declines.
Washington, D.C., and Boston have announced major service cuts. In New York
City, the local transit authority said in mid-November it may be forced to
cut bus and subway service by 40 per cent and lay off more than 9,000
In contrast, Toronto and Montreal are expanding their transit systems. Luc
Tremblay, CEO of the Montreal Transit Corp. said in a recent interview
Montreal chose to maintain service levels in 2020 at 2019 levels — despite
the fact ridership is about 35 per cent of what it was before COVID-19 hit.
Montreal, Tremblay said, made that choice so service is available when
riders decide to return. “It’s the key,” he explained. “Build it and they
On Dec. 15, as Quebec imposed more COVID-19-related restrictions to stop a
surge in infections across the province, the government announced a major
expansion to the city's light rail system. Twenty-three new stations will
be added to the commuter rail network, with construction set to begin in
In the country's largest city, the Toronto Transit Commission said service
during the week of Dec. 4 was at 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. The
transit agency said it will maintain the same level of service in 2021. The
Ontario government is also moving forward with a $28-billion plan to expand
transit in the Toronto area.
In British Columbia, transit agencies will receive more than $1 billion in
federal and provincial funding to maintain service levels. Federal money
also helped Winnipeg's public transit agency fill a gap in its budget after
ridership — and fare revenue — declined.
Marco D'Angelo, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Transit
Association, a trade association that represents the country's public
transit agencies, said service across the country is currently about 87 per
cent of pre-COVID levels.
"Systems are not planning to reduce service, but that will likely change
unless governments extend financial support," he said in an email.
Siemiatycki said that while ridership is down, the health crisis has shown
the importance of public transit. “Even through the pandemic, transit
played a critical role in our economies," he said. "Transit was a lifeline
service for people to reach their front-line place of employment."
Daniel Bergeron with Montreal's public transit authority said he expects
the pandemic-induced decline in ridership to have an almost $1-billon
impact on the agency's budget between 2020 and 2022. He said government
subsidies will help cover most of the shortfall, but added that expenses
will need to be cut and improvements put off in order to continue to offer
service at 2019 levels.
When the pandemic is over, people will move around differently, he said,
adding that he expects service to increase outside traditional peak
periods. People working from home will be more likely to take trips during
the day instead of at rush hour, he said.
“In the short term, there’s uncertainty," he said. "But in 10, 20 years, it
will be a new normal but still normal. We may have a bit more working from
home, but it’s not open to everybody.”
People will still have to go to work in shops, restaurants and
manufacturing facilities, and he thinks people will still want to go out to
restaurants and go shopping downtown.
“Good quality of life is not living near a highway,” Bergeron said. “Nice
neighbourhoods usually come with good public transport services.”
*This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020.*
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E-bikes increase the frequency and duration of cycling compared to
Uptake of e-cycling largely substitutes for conventional cycling or private
E-bikes are primarily used for utilitarian purposes, with older adults also
using e-bikes for recreation.
E-cycling promotion campaigns should be guided by evidence on the purpose
of e-cycling and factors associated with e-bike use.
This review suggests that the personal use of e-bikes is associated with a
reduction in motorized vehicle use, which has potential positive impacts on
the environment and health. The impacts of e-bike share schemes and
workplace initiatives are less well understood. Evidence describing the
purposes for which e-bikes are used, and the factors associated with usage,
are useful to inform e-cycling promotion policy.
Case of officer who pepper-sprayed man raises questions over limits of
Manitoba police watchdog muzzled by ‘reasonable doubt’
MANITOBA’S system of civilian oversight of police makes it a “pointless
exercise” for the independent watchdog to criminally charge officers
against prosecutors’ advice, a justice source says.
In a case that has raised questions about the limits of oversight in the
province, the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba announced last
week it would not lay charges against a Winnipeg Police Service
officer who pepper-sprayed
Prosecutors recommended against proceeding with the case, even though the
IIU has the power to lay charges if it sees fit.
A justice source familiar with the process said IIU files involving WPS
officers are forwarded to a rural senior Crown attorney to decide if the
case has a reasonable likelihood of conviction and if prosecuting it is in
the public interest.
While the IIU has the ability to lay a charge regardless of the Crown
opinion, the case will only end up back in the hands of the same Crown, the
“It’s sort of a pointless exercise because even if (the IIU) says no, we
don’t agree with you, we are laying a charge; it’s just going to go back to
that Crown to prosecute it and it will just go away,” the source said. “So
that’s where they are stuck.
“They have that power legally, but that power means nothing if the Crown’s
office isn’t backing them up.”
The Crown would have to provide the IIU reasons why charges were not
recommended, but those reasons do not have to be made public, the source
“If there is not a reasonable likelihood of conviction, we would have to
weigh it: can we prove this beyond a reasonable doubt? If the answer is no,
we don’t proceed,” the source said.
WPS Patrol Sgt. Jeffrey Norman was investigated for alleged assault, after
an April 12, 2019, incident in which he pepper-sprayed a 29-year-old man
who was biking home from work. Norman was investigating car break-ins in
the area, and said the cyclist fit the description of a suspect.
In his report, Norman claimed he felt threatened, and said he had to use
pepper spray to detain a man who was trying to get away. The cyclist,
Thomas Krause, said the officer got angry when asked to turn off his car’s
high beams, and pepper-sprayed him when Krause told him he didn’t think
Norman had the right to search his backpack.
On Dec. 10, the IIU announced Norman won’t face any charges, following a
Crown office review of the case.
A former law professor and federal prosecutor says Manitoba prosecutors
followed proper legal standards.
“It would be a little bizarre to get a Crown opinion that there’s no
reasonable likelihood of conviction and then lay a charge anyway, in the
face of that opinion, knowing that it’s going to go to the Crown and
they’ll stay it,” said Bruce MacFarlane, who has taught at University of
Manitoba’s law school, worked as a prosecutor, and served in the federal
and provincial justice departments.
“It was dealt with the way it should have been dealt with, in my view.”
Police can lay a criminal charge if they have reasonable grounds, meaning
enough evidence. The test for Crown prosecutors is a step above: they
have to decide there’s a reasonable likelihood of conviction, based on the
evidence and the public interest in bringing the case to court.
Unlike in B.C., Quebec and New Brunswick, Manitoba prosecutors don’t screen
every case before criminal charges are laid.
Police can ask for a Crown review when they choose, and often do so in
cases that involve complex legal questions or suspects who are public
figures, MacFarlane said.
“This is not special treatment, because there’s many different types of
cases, tough cases, where a Crown opinion is sought first. Many, many — so
to leave any impression that police are being given special treatment, it
would be false,” he said.
The public typically doesn’t get a glimpse of a Crown review — a portion of
the Crown’s opinion was released as part of the IIU’s final report in this
case. MacFarlane said the Crown has to consider possible defences when it
determines whether there’s a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
In this case, the Crown consulted a use-of-force expert from out of
province (whose report hasn’t been publicly released) before prosecutors
decided there was “reasonable doubt” Norman’s actions constituted excessive
That language raised a red flag for Ian Scott, former head of Ontario’s
police watchdog Special Investigations Unit.
“My personal view is that whether or not there’s going to be a doubt or
not, it’s kind of irrelevant. That’s really for the judge to decide, not
the prosecution service,” Scott said.
It’s up to the prosecution to decide if there’s a reasonable likelihood of
conviction, but reasonable doubt about whether a crime occurred needs to be
decided by the courts, he said.
“If that’s the standard... the chances that there’s ever going to be a
trial of a police officer in circumstances like this is next to nil... When
you’re reading a file in an office, there’s always a reasonable doubt,”
“The prosecution service is usurping the role of the courts.”
The Free Press requested copies of the Crown’s full opinion on the case,
and the use-of-force expert’s report prosecutors consulted, but a
spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said the materials are privileged and
won’t be released.