Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Transcona drivers fume over Plessis Road closure

Forced to take long detour despite construction delay

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Anger and frustration are growing in south Transcona despite reassurances from the city about the stalled Plessis Road project.

The frustration is over the closure of a key section of a regional road without any visible work occurring there for the past eight months.

Residents said they don't understand the reasons for the delay of the $77-million Plessis Road project and are fearful the fall civic election could create a turnover at city hall that will cancel the project.

"I drive by there four or five times a day," said Louise Hedman, a south Transcona resident, adding the construction site has been idle since the road was closed.

"That's very frustrating when you're driving all the way around and spending more money on gas and more time and nothing's happening with the road and you can't use it."

A key stretch of Plessis Road, between Kernaghan Avenue and Dugald Road, was closed July 28, 2013. The project involves reconstruction and widening of Plessis Road along that stretch and construction of a railway underpass.

Plessis Road is a major north-south corridor in Transcona. The closure requires a lengthy detour east or west to get back into the community and has created a traffic nightmare.

The plan called for the road to be partially opened later this year, following construction of the underpass, but officials said in January unexpected delays mean the underpass can't be completed in time for a temporary road to be built.

Now, the regional street will remain closed until the project is completed -- which is estimated to be in late 2015 or early 2016.

"Ten-thousand people used to use that route and it's been sitting with no work being done on it and no answers (why)," Kurt Berger, another area resident, said.

"The residents are questioning why the road wasn't left open," he added.

City officials said the delay was caused by a lack of co-operation from Canadian National Railway and two pipeline companies but Berger and Hedman question why the city didn't settle those negotiations before closing the road.

"I understand people's frustration," said area Coun. Russ Wyatt.

The closure "is a big inconvenience, but it's only temporary. Once it's built, it's going to be one of the best things to have happened in Transcona."

Wyatt said there is no way the project will be cancelled, adding work has started on the site. A $35-million contract was recently awarded. There's been no resolution to the talks with CN over its share of the project costs, Wyatt said, but added the dispute will be resolved.

A public information meeting was held Saturday but Wyatt could not attend.

Hedman said without Wyatt to answer questions at the meeting, the event took on an angry partisan tone.

"It seemed to be a Russ-bashing session," said Hedman, who acted as meeting facilitator.

"There were a lot of people in the audience really angry. They figured it was a politically staged meeting. That's not how it was supposed to be."

Hedman said she hopes another information meeting can be arranged when Wyatt can attend.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 A6

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