Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 08/12/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Last Modified: 08/12/2014 6:53 AM | Updates
Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman wants you to be able to walk across Portage and Main -- legally.
Bowman braved the sounds of traffic and idling vehicles on Monday to announce he wants the iconic intersection to be open to pedestrians for the first time in decades by 2019 at the latest.
Bowman, who plies his trade as a lawyer in one of the tall buildings at the intersection, said encouraging pedestrians at the intersection is just one way to help make the downtown "an open, accessible, safe and vibrant place for all Winnipeggers.
"We need to get more bodies down here... the city needs to take a leadership role."
Bowman said there are many cities around the world that have intersections that are busier, yet they are able to have both pedestrians and vehicles use them.
"We'll all be here when the Winnipeg Jets win the Stanley Cup," he said.
"It's a key priority for me to work with the property owners to have it opened."
The year 2019 is key because that's when the city's deal with property owners on all four corners of Portage and Main, which keeps the intersection closed to pedestrians, expires.
City council has been told in recent months any of the property owners can renew the agreement for a further 40-year term starting in 2019, which is why some councillors have been pushing the city to work with the property owners before any decisions are made.
A civic report said more than 200,000 vehicles drive through the intersection every day, while only about 1,000 pedestrians would be expected to cross the street on foot daily.
The promise is also the same one Judy Wasylycia-Leis made during her mayoral campaign four years ago.
Wasylycia-Leis said Monday nothing has changed and she will still work to open up the intersection to pedestrians if she is elected.
Bowman said opening Portage and Main was only the first in a series of announcements he'll be making about downtown during the election campaign.
At the same announcement, Bowman also said he wants to help develop a seasonal pedestrian mall in the Exchange District and encourage downtown businesses to help with streetscaping and creating small parks in nearby public spaces.
Bowman said it's also a vision of the downtown that sets him apart from policies put forward so far by mayoral candidate Gord Steeves, which were unveiled last week.
Steeves on Friday announced he would spend up to $800,000 for 20 police cadets to patrol the downtown, as well as re-establish a storefront police office on Portage Avenue.
"Some people think Winnipeggers should be afraid of their downtown," Bowman said.
"The candidate last week in my view was campaigning on fear. I like to be more optimistic.
"We clearly have very different viewpoints of our vision of downtown."
How big a difference to downtown would opening Portage and Main to pedestrians make? Join the conversation in the comments below.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2014 A4
Updated on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 at 6:53 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds question for discussion
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