Pedestrian safety key to Portage and Main reopening
IT will take two years of planning before work can begin on reopening the Portage and Main intersection to pedestrians, a senior city official said.
Lester Deane, director of public works, told reporters Tuesday that a consulting firm hired to carry out a traffic analysis found no obstacles or concerns that would prevent foot traffic at the iconic intersection.
But Deane said measures would have to be taken to ensure pedestrians are safe when crossing and accessibility is achieved for everyone.
“We believe we can open the intersections, it’s just a question of having a good plan going forward and working with the owners so they’re comfortable with the overall picture,” Deane said. “We know we can do it, it’s just a question of painting the big picture and getting costs associated with delivering that.”
Deane said the analysis found that there would be delays to traffic flows through the intersection for both private vehicles and transit buses, but he added that was expected.
However, no funds have been set aside in the preliminary 2017 city budget for work that would lead to reopening the corner.
Mayor Brian Bowman said last week, when he tabled the budget that funds weren’t included because the city is still talking to the property owners.
“Some of the issues that have been raised (by the property owners) is a desire for more investments — for the city to do its part — while the property owners have been investing millions of dollars in upgrades to their exterior and interior,” Bowman said.
The famous intersection was closed to pedestrians in 1979 in a deal between city hall and developers to facilitate the construction of the underground concourse and adjoining underground Winnipeg Square shopping mall.
Deane said the most problematic area for pedestrians would be near the Bank of Montreal, at the intersection’s southeast corner, explaining there is little land available for the infrastructure needed to accommodate pedestrians.
The boulevard in front of the bank building also poses accessibility issues, he said, as it is a two-metre drop to the street. Deane said the city would likely have to acquire some of the property from the bank before work could proceed.
“It’s the most difficult corner to introduce pedestrian access,” Deane said. “To make things safe and to meet our accessibility requirements, there is a lot of additional work that would have to be done.”
Deane said the study, which has not been made public, contained early estimates for some of the work involved, but he added more analysis and designs would be required to determine an accurate cost.