WINNIPEGGERS who have eagerly awaited the arrival of IKEA might have to wait a little while longer -- in traffic -- as some expect the Swedish furniture giant's opening will exacerbate existing gridlock along Kenaston Boulevard.
While city officials say area roadways -- including a new mega-intersection at Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway -- have been upgraded to handle additional volumes, critics and residents expect the IKEA-led retail development will only worsen congestion along parts of Kenaston.
Right now, Kenaston carries between 55,000 and 60,000 vehicles daily. A 2009 traffic-impact study estimated the IKEA-led Seasons of Tuxedo will attract an additional 29,000 trips to the area on a typical weekday and an additional 36,600 new trips on an average Saturday by the time all phases of the retail development are complete in 2018.
Area councillor Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said traffic in the area is already a problem and expects it will be even worse when people from all ends of the city decide to visit IKEA.
"It's going to be a huge problem," she said. "You can only go as fast as the bottleneck."
Havixbeck said the significant infrastructure investments made by developer Fairweather Properties will not alleviate the fact the city cannot move forward with its plan to widen Kenaston to six lanes between Ness and Taylor avenues.
The proposed alignment can't proceed without negotiating for a portion of the Kapyong Barracks land. Several First Nations say they are owed surplus federal land and were not properly consulted before Ottawa transferred most of Kapyong to Canada Lands, the Crown redevelopment firm.
Havixbeck said residents should phone their MP, as there seems to be no political will to resolve the issue.
"You can only go as fast as the slowest part. If the slowest part is only two lanes and need to be widened, that's as fast as you'll ever move," she said.
City of Winnipeg traffic officials, however, maintain the road upgrades will be able to handle projected vehicle volumes.
Fairweather Properties spent $26.5-million to add more turning lanes and widen intersections at Kenaston, Sterling Lyon Parkway and Shaftesbury Boulevard to accommodate thousands of extra vehicles expected to flock to the area.
City of Winnipeg transportation manager Luis Escobar was not available for an interview, but a city statement said the mega-intersection of Kenaston and Sterling Lyon Parkway was built to handle an hourly peak of 9,100 vehicles expected on Saturdays when the retail development is completely built out in 2018. Currently, about 5,700 vehicles travel through the intersection on a typical afternoon rush hour.
The statement said the city will not be making any additional traffic-control adjustments as "all roadway improvements, including traffic control devices, are in place right now."
A city spokeswoman said Winnipeg Transit may modify the No. 78 bus route, which makes existing stops just west of Kenaston and Lowson Crescent, right onto the IKEA site next spring.
Whyte Ridge resident Michael Dubowec said he thinks the road infrastructure in the area has been poorly planned and there are too many traffic lights between Taylor Avenue and Bishop Grandin Boulevard.
Dubowec said he thinks the city should have mandated more service roads be built into the development, rather than installing additional traffic lights along Kenaston.
"It's going to significantly slow down our commute," he said. "It's a significant problem and it will not get better."