Winnipeg Free Press
City eyes pedestrian/bike spanWould be part of Disraeli reconstruction
bylineParse('By Bartley Kives')
Updated: September 23, 2008 at 02:50 AM CDT
Cyclists are ecstatic but northeast Winnipeg politicians are fuming over the latest Disraeli Freeway reconstruction plan, which calls for a new pedestrian-and-bike bridge but no guarantees motorists won't be stuck in construction traffic for as long as 16 months.
After mulling over three Disraeli design options, city bridge engineers have chosen to forge ahead with a four-lane, single-span structure that will keep the price down to $140 million by reusing existing concrete foundations and steel girders.
The design, which comes before city council's public works committee today, calls for a single sidewalk, wider curb lanes to allow vehicles and cyclists to share the road and a brand-new pedestrian/cyclist bridge that would connect Elmwood with North Point Douglas several blocks to the east.
City engineers say the dedicated pedestrian/bike bridge will add $12.5 million to a design originally pegged at $125 million, but remains cheaper than a $160-million option that called for a wider motor-vehicle bridge to accommodate a separated bike lane.
"No fumes, no fast cars zooming by you. This is exactly what we wanted," said Kevin Miller, a spokesman for Bike To The Future, a commuter-cyclist lobby group. "This is just a wonderful solution that fits in perfectly with the (bike trail) infrastructure that's been built in the last few years."
Pending council approval, city engineers will search for a private construction consortium to design, build, finance and maintain the 1.1-kilometre roadway later this fall, with the hopes of seeing actual work start in 2010.
Preference will be given to a consortium that comes up with a way to abbreviate the expected 16-month construction period or keep two lanes open to traffic while the work is underway, public works director Bill Larkin said.
Those goals will be written into the formal request for proposals, but northeast Winnipeg politicians would still prefer to see the city adopt a design that would not require any closures on the Disraeli Freeway.
North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, Elmwood Coun. Lillian Thomas, Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt and former Elmwood MLA Jim Maloway -- who's now running for a federal seat in Transcona -- have been urging the city to build a six-lane, double-span Disraeli Freeway.
Browaty said his constituents won't be happy with any closure on the motor-vehicle bridge.
Maloway completely panned the new city design. "This sounds to me like a pretty goofy idea, because it doesn't change the fact people will be inconvenienced for a year and a half," he said.
City engineers have pegged the price of a double-span Disraeli Freeway at around $300 million, a figure Larkin says the city cannot justify on the basis of meeting future traffic needs or alleviating construction-period congestion.
Even at $140 million, the freeway reconstruction is the second-most-expensive roadway project on Winnipeg's horizon, after the $324-million southwest Winnipeg bus corridor announced by Mayor Sam Katz and Premier Gary Doer earlier this month.
The special meeting of city council's public works committee has been called for this morning to allow Couns. Thomas, Browaty, Bill Clement and Harry Lazarenko to review the Disraeli design, while council as a whole votes on the plan on Wednesday. Maloway said that does not allow enough time for debate, claiming he's heard from 5,000 northeast Winnipeg residents who want to see a two-span bridge built at any cost.
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