Groups push for active transportation

Centreport hub should include trails, pathways

By: Matt Preprost

A group of west Winnipeg businesses and organizations are joining forces to pressure officials to make active transportation a part of the development of CentrePort Canada.

Current plans for the project don’t include the community’s active transportation needs and that is threatening to cut off pedestrian connectivity between several communities, according to Janice Lukes of the Winnipeg Trails Association.

"If the province, feds and the city are moving us towards this global multi-modal transportation hub, we need to consider active transportation," Lukes said. "But they’re not looking at it in the big picture."

The Red River Exhibition, Assiniboia Downs and the MTS Iceplex in St. James, as well as Friends of the Harte Trail in Charleswood and Adrenaline Adventures and the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail in Headingley have partnered with the Winnipeg Trails Association to lobby for some form of active transportation strategy in the area.

They contend the redevelopment of portions of the Perimeter Highway will threaten existing trail developments from connecting to each other, like the Harte Trail and the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail.

They would like to see studies and analysis conducted to see how to incorporate a trail system and pedestrian crossings to keep the neighbourhoods connected.

"It’s frustrating. You work for years to build these trail systems and hope the government sees the big picture, and when they don’t it’s disheartening," Lukes said. "We don’t want to be riding on cloverleafs with semis but give us something."

Lukes pointed to the construction of the Red River Floodway in which there were four studies done on recreation.

Officials with CentrePort Canada said creating an active transportation network isn’t mandated in their legislation, which focuses on business development.

"We understand the desire to have more bike paths, to have more trails," said Riva Harrison, executive director of communications for CentrePort, adding that recreational areas like the Little Mountain Sportsplex and Prairie Dog Central won’t be displaced.

Harrison said CentrePort is supportive of building recreational areas around CentrePort, but that CentrePort won’t lead the development.

"Our mandate is to increase trade via transportation. I think there’s no question that we’re supportive of the idea that some trails or recreation can be incorporated into the land use plan, but obviously it has to be carefully done because it’s a truck-oriented expressway."

The province said in a statement it’s too early in CentrePort’s development to define specific AT plans.

"Active transportation routes will be explored as the more detailed development plans associated with CentrePort Canada evolve," a spokesperson said in a statement.

Garth Rogerson, CEO of the Red River Ex, said plans are in the works to develop trails on the Ex grounds and that he would like them to connect into a bigger network, especially along Portage Avenue. Rogerson said he’s noticed school children walking alongside the road and under the Perimeter Highway overpass to get to the park.

"There’s a lot of development going on in Headingley and west of the Perimeter," he said. "It’s conceivable that the city will just continue to expand beyond Headingley and we need to start thinking now before we build too many things.

"Let’s at least plan for it now so we don’t get caught 20 years from now saying we should have put paths in. Don’t just plan for cars — plan for bicycles and people as well. That’s what we’re pushing for."