Area residents and key players are hoping a new committee will help ease concerns about potential traffic gridlock and parking problems at the future home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
On July 11, the Riel community committee gave the green light to a transportation plan, released on July 8, before it approved building permits for the 33,000-seat stadium near the University of Manitoba, which is set to open in 2012. A community advisory committee will be set up to deal with the traffic-related issues.
City planner John Wintrup said the committee will work on an ongoing event management plan and may include local residents, members of the city’s planning departments, Winnipeg Transit, the football club, the U of M, Victoria General Hospital and local business representatives.
"The plan will be an ongoing work in progress, like a football team. Over time, it will count new plays that are working and not working, then set new goals and monitor them," Wintrup said, adding that the committee will examine all transportation options including existing bus services and gameday parking incentives for carpoolers.
Long-time Thatcher Drive resident Klaus Wrogemann was among the residents who spoke at the July 11 meeting. He said that while news of the upcoming committee was a positive step, he feels residents were not given enough time to review the transportation plans before the meeting.
"It makes no sense to me, having already proceeded with the stadium project, to release these plans now. That’s the fundamental flaw with this project — the rush," Wrogemann said.
"We need real infrastructure in place before moving ahead. One solution would be to use buses only on gamedays, but Winnipeggers don’t like to use buses. At the start, I think there will be tremendous chaos. The two feeder streets to the university — Pembina and Bishop Grandin — are congested enough already."
Another long-time resident, who lives on Baldry Bay, said his objection to the release of the transportation plan was due to the lack of public participation.
"From the beginning, the concerns of residents weren’t being heard and people weren’t adequately engaged in terms of concerns and issues coming down the road," said Kevin Lunn, who was also at the recent meeting.
"Based on my personal concerns, the advisory committee is a step in the right direction. What’s important now is how it will function — and not just about traffic volume, but other imprints such as sound and noise."
Jim Bell, president of the Winnipeg Football Club, said working with the community is a crucial part of the planning process.
"We’re looking forward to working with the general public and the fans," Bell said, after returning from a tour of the stadium site in Fort Garry.
"We have a group of people working within the club which is looking at these issues very closely. We want to be a respected community citizen. Do we have all the answers right now? No, we do not. Are we actively pursuing these answers? Absolutely," he said.
Bell added that possible parking solutions such as utilizing parking stalls at the U of M, looking at ancillary parking in the area and examining carpooling options will be considered.
St. Norbert Coun. Justin Swandel said the advisory committee could be formed as early as the fall — and would be engaged for the lifespan of the stadium.
"The group should be formed soon but that timing is up to the proponent," Swandel said. "My sense is that September would be a good time to start meeting."