Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Past sins haunt St. B

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Residents of north St. Boniface want the city to ban heavy trucks from Provencher Boulevard to reduce the noise level, improve the pedestrian experience and enhance the reputation of the area as Winnipeg's French Quarter. There's even talk of reducing the three lanes of traffic in each direction to just two so the sidewalk can be expanded, creating room for a patio experience.

It's a great idea, and one that's been around for a long time.

The problem, however, is simple logistics.

Some 27,000 vehicles, including 600 trucks, use Provencher every day. It's a major artery that connects truckers to the industrial areas east of the city, including an industrial park and Symington Yards. As well, there are substantial businesses in the heart of old St. Boniface, including Westeel Ltd., Beatrice Dairy, Central Grain, Loveday Mushrooms and more.

Provencher was built to handle heavy loads because of its strategic location at a river crossing and the fact it links major business districts in Winnipeg, as well as serving as a route to provincial highways.

In these respects, St. Boniface is a hostage to its past. Until the community was forced to join Unicity in 1972, development was poorly regulated and the city council of the era was focused on attracting industrial and commercial businesses, which sprung up willy-nilly, without concern for the impact on residents.

The meat-packing industry, for example, which settled on Marion Street east of Archibald, was famous for the smell of manure that wafted over residential neighbourhoods.

St. Boniface, however, has made progress in overcoming the mistakes of the past and it wants to strengthen its reputation as the spiritual and institutional home of francophone life in Western Canada.

Banning truck traffic on Provencher would help in that endeavour, but the city needs to determine the impact of such a change. A traffic study might offer some solutions, such as limiting trucks during certain hours, but it might also find that banning trucks on one route will merely compound neighbourhood problems elsewhere.

The city, unfortunately, has failed to develop an effective inner-road transportation system for traffic and heavy vehicles, making it difficult for neighbourhoods such as St. Boniface to realize their goal of becoming great urban destinations.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 A14

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