Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bikeway to be built before ruling

Legal delay means project will be complete prior to court decision on it

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An attempt to put the brakes on the Assiniboine Bikeway probably won't make it to court until construction on the contentious Assiniboine Avenue project is complete.

Six businesses located near the Midtown Bridge have been trying to halt the $125,000 bikeway since construction began in late August, complaining that a recent tweak to the plan will cause traffic chaos in downtown's Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood.

That amendment was made after a city council committee reviewed the plans for the bikeway, which changes the flow of traffic along Assiniboine Avenue to prevent motor vehicles from shortcutting through the neighbourhood.

But when the case came before the Court of Queen's Bench on Thursday, the City of Winnipeg filed a motion to have the claim dismissed as baseless -- and also remove the plaintiff's lawyer, Joey Pollock, from the case.

That effectively means it will take months before the case makes its way to court.

"There will be snow on the ground before this matter will be heard," said Pollock, a partner in the law firm Campbell Marr. "It certainly could be December or later."

The city wants to remove Pollock because his Campbell Marr partner Douglas Mackenzie swore an affidavit in the case, in his role as president of 10 Donald St., one of the six businesses suing the city. Campbell Marr is housed inside 10 Donald St.

"The city contends no member of the Campbell Marr law firm can represent the businesses because Mr. Pollock's partner Doug Mackenzie has given evidence in this matter dealing with his role as counsel for the businesses about matters at issue in the litigation," city spokesman Steve West said in a statement.

The city also wants to dismiss the claim itself because it contends the bikeway amendment did not have to come back before a council committee. The original report was "received as information," which means it did not progress to council itself.

"The need to consult occurs when a street is closed, but the city is not closing a street. Assiniboine Avenue had motor-vehicle and bicycle traffic and it will continue to do so," West said.

Pollock said he recognizes the city's right to raise procedural issues but considers the city's motion frivolous. Both he and the city's legal counsel are due in court today to set the time frame to hear the city's motion.

Although originally planned for 2008, the Assiniboine Bikeway is part of a $20.4-million city-wide bike-and-pedestrian upgrade that includes 34 other projects this year.

Several have been the subject of intense criticism from residents, leading politicians such as Mayor Sam Katz and River Heights Coun. John Orlikow to complain about the way the city notified the public.

"What pains me the most is that something that you wanted to be embraced by all citizens -- I'm talking about active transportation -- unfortunately turns out to not be the case and I think part of it appears to be with the way the public consultation was done," Katz told reporters Thursday. "I've heard some stories that were extremely disconcerting to me, to be very frank with you."

One of the plaintiffs on Assiniboine said he was notified by a notice taped to his door.

City active-transportation co-ordinator Kevin Nixon has said the city has held more consultation on the active-transportation upgrade than private developers ever do. Resistance in Wolseley to a bike-and-pedestrian bridge over Omand's Creek led that project to be struck from the plan.

But there is no going back on the Assiniboine Bikeway, Katz suggested.

"If you were actually to take a walk, which I did this week, you'd see the majority of the work is done," he said.

Katz has rejected the suggestion the headaches stem from tight timelines to complete the active-transportation project, which is funded by all three levels of government -- provided all the work is completed before April.

-- With files from Mary Agnes Welch

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 24, 2010 B1

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