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Disraeli detour causing headaches for residents

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Crews continue work on the new Disraeli 
pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Red River.

MATT PREPROST Enlarge Image

Crews continue work on the new Disraeli pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Red River. Photo Store

Construction continues on the Disraeli pedestrian bridge connecting Point Douglas and Elmwood, but rerouted traffic and foot traffic are creating new safety concerns for nearby residents.

Since crews closed a section of Midwinter Avenue beneath the bridge between Riverton and Brazier on April 29, residents of a tiny enclave of Talbot Avenue, just west of the Disraeli, say their quiet street is being flooded by frustrated lead-footed motorists getting trapped in the detour.

"Drivers are coming off Henderson, but they’re not addressing the ‘local traffic only’ sign," said resident Don Kruse, whose home sits at a dead end of Talbot next to the Elmwood Cemetery.

"They can’t get to Nairn or the Louise Bridge anymore, so they figure they can get out this end. I guess they get annoyed getting lost, put the lead foot on and go."

Mirleen Kittle says the street usually sees about five lost cars on an ordinary day. Since work restarted, that number has jumped to up to 50 an hour.

"People just don’t know where to go," said Kittle.

"This is the third time it’s been closed since construction. This is the worst it’s been."

Midwinter will remain closed between Riverton and Brazier until July 31 when the project is expected to be complete.

But when it opens, other Talbot residents fear the low-lying bridge could become popular for nefarious activity like drug deals and muggings.

As someone who cycles to work in the Exchange District from spring through fall, Val Huffman says he’s worried passing motorists on the Disraeli overpass won’t have a clear view of the pedestrian bridge.

"You can’t gauge the sight lines until the old bridge is demolished," Huffman admitted. "But if people are driving across the bridge, their eyes are on the road. You’re turning for almost the entire span."

From his deck, resident John West has perhaps the best view of the Disraeli spanning the Red River. He, too, worries poor sight lines from both the bridge and his backyard means he won’t be able to keep a watchful eye for trouble.

"Especially during the summer, when the leaves are all filled in, we won’t have a good view of it," he said.

"We think the bridge is a good idea, we just don’t know how safe it’s going to be."

West and his wife, Annette, are concerned about neighbourhood safety with the increase in foot traffic between the two neighbourhoods. The tot lot next to their house was a common place for drug deals before it closed as part of the construction, they said.

The couple’s home and their boat have also been the subject of multiple break-ins, which led them to installing a surveillance system for their property.

Over the last three years, Kittle has noted an increase in car break-ins on the street, which only has about 30 houses.

Brad Neirinck, Disraeli project manager for the city, said cyclists and pedestrians have the option of using the pedestrian bridge or the traffic overpass if they’re looking to cross the Red.

The pedestrian bridge will be visible to northbound traffic and that those crossing the overpass sidewalk will be able to look down at the bridge, he said.

The bridge was built lower than the traffic bridge to avoid the steep climb required for the Disraeli to overpass Midwinter and Rover Avenue, Neirinch explained. There will be lighting across the bridge, and at each end, he added.

From Midwinter, cyclists can connect to active transportation routes along Henderson, the Brazier Bike Boulevard or the Northeast Pioneers Greenway. Those coming onto Rover can turn east towards Annabella Street and connect with the North Winnipeg Parkway, which connects to Waterfront Drive and eventually The Forks, Neirinck said.

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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