The writers of Community News Commons meet frequently for story meetings in the Alloway Boardroom of The Winnipeg Foundation, on the 13th floor of the Richardson Building, right above the corner of Portage and Main.
After each meeting, we spread out to various parts of the city to research our stories.
This week, I didn’t have to look far for the location of my next CNC story; I only needed to gaze out the window, high atop Winnipeg’s most famous corner.
The debate about opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians should be examined in a city wide context. Are pedestrian crossings restricted or discouraged at other Winnipeg intersections?
As we move along Portage Ave., pedestrians crossings are prohibited at Broadway, Wall, Erin, Woodhaven, Sturgeon, Country Club Blvd., Cavalier, in front of Unicity, and at St. Charles St. There is an obvious concern, even with a boulevard in the middle, of crossing six to eight lanes of traffic. Also, there are no longer any overhead pedestrian crosswalks along Portage Ave.
Along Main St., pedestrian crossing is forbidden at Stradbrook, Water, James, Disraeli, Sutherland, Smithfield, and in front of Kildonan Park.
In Transcona, there is a pedestrian ban at Starlite and Regent West. This is a particularly dangerous part of Regent West.
Along Pembina, pedestrian access is banned at Stafford, McGillivray, and Bishop Grandin.
There are many intersections where pedestrian access is not allowed because of a sometimes continuous flow of traffic from two different main streets.
Provencher at Archibald, Nairn at Stadacona, Notre Dame at McPhillips, Tuxedo and Corydon, Henderson at Hespeler, and Raleigh and McLeod are just a few of the many instances of this.
A second concern is the difficulty in predicting costs. The elimination of any pedestrian ban involves more than removing the signs.
As an example, if the pedestrian ban at Kenaston and Tuxedo was removed, a new sidewalk on the north side of Tuxedo east of Kenaston would have to be constructed.
Opening Portage and Main would likely necessitate a much larger number of infrastructure adjustments. Can our city accurately project the cost?
We should ask, What is wrong with providing pedestrians with alternatives to crossing traffic. Many buildings are connected with overhead structures. We can move around much of downtown Winnipeg without going outside.
There is a new overhead connection between the existing part of the Health Sciences Centre and the new Woman’s Hospital. Would anyone suggest that hospital visitors ignore this convenience and cross William Ave. at street level? There are outdoor pedestrian over and underpasses at the St. James Bridge, the Maryland Bridge, the William Clement Parkway and the Disraeli Freeway, which all allow pedestrians safe access.
The restrictions for pedestrians exist primarily due to safety concerns. It is unlikely that any of these restrictions will be removed. It is more likely that more new restrictions will be implemented. This could happen along Kenaston, Highway 59, or at Henderson and Chief Peguis.
Portage and Main is the only Winnipeg intersection where some are encouraging removing pedestrian restrictions. There are 17 lanes of traffic in the intersection. Accident records are often used to justify traffic adjustments. With Portage and Main, we would have to project the effect of this opening.
Because of the obvious need to restrict and discourage pedestrian crossings in all other parts of the city, the probability of safely opening up the complex Portage and Main intersection is remote.