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This article was published 15/10/2018 (458 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Coalition for Portage and Main, the group organizing to get the city’s iconic intersection reopened to pedestrians, has announced a plan that could decrease traffic congestion if the barriers come down after next week's referendum.
Coalition spokesman Adam Dooley and former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray announced the proposal — which would see a north-south transit corridor built along Fort Street — Monday morning.
'Vote Open has heard loud and clear from Winnipeggers that too many of our fellow citizens are frustrated with downtown traffic as it is now. Even minor delays are unpopular. But what if we could fix that?' - Adam Dooley, spokesman for the Vote Open campaign
"We’ve heard an awful lot about traffic during this campaign," Dooley said, referencing the city-commissioned 2016 Dillon Consulting study, which concluded the vast majority of traffic moving through Portage and Main would experience minor delays if the barriers were removed.
"Vote Open has heard loud and clear from Winnipeggers that too many of our fellow citizens are frustrated with downtown traffic as it is now. Even minor delays are unpopular. But what if we could fix that?"
Currently, there is an east-west transit corridor on Graham Avenue, which helps reduce bus traffic on Portage Avenue. If implemented, the new proposal would see a similar north-south transit corridor built along Fort Street, further alleviating the strain placed on the intersection.
Approximately 2,000 buses make their way through Portage and Main every day; there are some 250 per hour during peak morning and afternoon commuter periods.
The impact reopening the intersection will have on traffic has been a major point of contention between those on opposites sides of the debate. The proposed transit corridor would see buses travel along Fort Street, Notre Dame Avenue, King Street and William Avenue, bypassing the intersection entirely.
Murray said the idea has been floating around for decades and is just one example of how people’s "legitimate concerns about opening up" the intersection could be addressed.
"When the larger, slower-moving buses are no longer in the intersection there is actually more capacity there for vehicles. We’re hopeful, when we see the numbers, that taking those buses out of the intersection may give a net benefit for people who choose to drive their car to work," he said.
"It’s such an efficient crossing with Portage Avenue and it leads to both a north-west and straight north connection, and it can reasonably access back. There’s not much disruption. I don’t suspect there would be significant costs."
Murray, who served as mayor from 1998 to 2004, recently moved back to Winnipeg from Ontario. He’s invested in a downtown business and thinks reopening the intersection could have a transformative, cascading effect on development in the area.
The Coalition for Portage and Main has announced it will host a free concert at the intersection Saturday, featuring local bands, beer and food.
The volunteer-run event, called OpenFest, is being thrown the last weekend before Winnipeggers head to the polls to elect a new municipal government and cast a ballot on the intersection’s future.
Local bands Royal Canoe, Mahogany Frog and JP Hoe, among others, are scheduled to headline the event.
The festival starts at 2 p.m. and all proceeds will be donated to the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation.
Amalgamated Transit Union 1505 president Aleem Chaudhary said he likes the idea, claiming it's consistent with what his union has been calling for. He said it was one of many options the city could look at to improve bus flow downtown.
"It would alleviate quite a bit of the traffic. It would open up another lane on Main Street, the diamond lane. If there’s no more need for that, it gives more space for the cars to move around. We have always been advocating for getting the buses off the intersection and onto a different road," Chaudhary said.
Murray also floated the idea the city could look to tax-increment financing to fund — in full or in part — the creation of the transit corridor and the redesign of Portage and Main.
Winnipeggers get their say on the intersection's future when they vote in the Oct. 24 civic election, although the referendum is non-binding.
Recent reports also suggest the intersection's barriers may need to come down regardless of the outcome, due to needed structural repairs.
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.