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Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight A Free Press investigation into the City of Winnipeg's transportation division

Christian Sweryda has spent hundreds of hours cataloguing and tracking the changes to intersections in Winnipeg. His findings point to financial mismanagement in the public works department.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/02/2022 (342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Christian Sweryda has spent hundreds of hours cataloguing and tracking the changes to intersections in Winnipeg. His findings point to financial mismanagement in the public works department.

That research is the basis of a Free Press investigative series by Ryan Thorpe: Red Light, Green Light, No Oversight.

 

 


 

Winnipeg’s public works dept. wastes millions of tax dollars on unnecessary projects, independent research reveals

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg’s public works department wastes millions of tax dollars on unnecessary streets and transportation projects, independent research reveals.

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How many times can city crews change a traffic light?A Free Press investigation by Ryan Thorpe sought to answer that question, resulting in the discovery of wasteful spending and frivolous infrastructure projects carried out by the public works department for more than a decade.

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Winnipeggers deserve an explanation for waste of taxpayer dollars: expert

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Independent researcher Chris Sweryda poses for a portrait at Henderson and Peguis (where a single left turn lane has two signal lights) in Winnipeg on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. For Ryan Thorpe story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

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The anti-corruption expert grew increasingly concerned with each passing example of costly and confusing construction projects ordered by Winnipeg’s public works department — year after year, intersection after intersection.

Kevin Gillese stopped the presentation halfway through — he’d seen enough.

“The materials you’ve shown me are extremely disturbing. They suggest a pattern of incompetence or corruption, or perhaps both… The patterns shown are over a long period of time and there’s no obvious rhyme or reason to what’s being done,” Gillese said.

“The extent and the magnitude is so great that it staggers the imagination. It suggests something very, very wrong in the way intersection engineering is being done in the City of Winnipeg.”

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Yellow caution flashes again 12 years after audit condemns city department

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

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Allegations of financial mismanagement in the transportation division of the public works department should not come as a surprise at city hall.

A damning 2010 audit into the traffic signals branch found a lack of basic standards and an inability to track the cost of construction projects due to poor record-keeping and oversight.

The report was authored by city auditor Bryan Mansky — the same person Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface), chair of the public works committee, asked to review the findings of independent researcher Christian Sweryda.

Allard is requesting an audit Wednesday at the Riel Community Committee.

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A decade of deadly delay

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Eye-level lights at the pedestrian crossing at Roblin Boulevard and Hunterspoint Road, where a boy was seriously injured in 2018, in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. For Ryan story. Winnipeg Free Press 2022.

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For the past 11 years, independent researcher and traffic-safety activist Christian Sweryda has been urging the City of Winnipeg to install eye-level safety lights at pedestrian corridors.

It has been a long, drawn-out battle, featuring a forgotten report, a pilot project bordering on the absurd, a spate of major crashes and dead children.

Despite the deaths and near-tragedies, the city has resisted the mass rollout of a cheap and proven safety initiative. To this day, the vast majority of pedestrian corridors in Winnipeg do not have eye-level safety lights.

The financial cost of delays is minuscule, but the human cost has been immeasurable.

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Winnipegger’s effort to replace missing school area traffic signs thwarted by city department’s couldn’t-care-less attitude

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 30km/h school zone speed limit sign on Grosvernor Avenue near Wilton Street, Thursday, October 18, 2018.

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It was sometime in 2011 when independent researcher and traffic-safety activist Christian Sweryda started to notice locations where school-zone signs were missing in Winnipeg.

He began to count the places where they should have been installed. When his list hit 30, he contacted the transportation division of the public works department to flag the issue.

Sweryda said based on how many signs were missing just in his area, there were likely hundreds more around the city. He suggested someone do an inventory.

Someone in the department told Sweryda it would not do a count, but would replace missing signs on a case-by-case basis. They told him to stop calling and instead contact 311.

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Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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