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This article was published 13/8/2018 (426 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Manitoba Trucking Association says it’s opposed to reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians until city hall can prove it’s safe and engages the community in a meaningful consultation process.
Terry Shaw, the association’s executive director, said based on the information released so far — essentially only a consultant’s report — no case has been made to reintroduce pedestrians and the MTA is opposed on safety and efficiency grounds.
Shaw said the Perimeter Highway isn’t a viable alternative for trucks and the long-planned inner-ring road is incomplete, explaining that truckers inevitably must go through Portage and Main to get to their destinations and they don’t want anything to impede truck travel.
"If you want to go east to west or north to south, our city is hub-and-spoke and that hub is Portage and Main. It’s the dead centre of our city," Shaw said. "Our alternatives to avoiding that intersection are incredibly limited and as such it is a critical intersection, one that we need to maintain safe and efficient access to."
Shaw said he wrote to Mayor Brian Bowman on July 26 outlining the association's concerns and opposition to the plan but to date hasn't received a response.
"The most significant question that remained unanswered by the MTA Board was, ‘in an era of well understood infrastructure budgetary challenge, why is this project being considered a priority?’" Shaw said in his letter to the mayor.
"This question remains unanswered….Until the safety and efficiency concerns are better understood and addressed as part of the Portage and Main plan the MTA Board is on record as opposing this project at this time."
A response to the MTA letter "is forthcoming," a spokesman for Bowman said.
Jonathan Hildebrand, the mayor's director of communications, said council shares many of the trucking industry’s concerns about the as yet unknown implications of reopening the intersection. And that’s why Bowman supported council’s October directive to require the public service to return to council with an implementation plan outlining costs, as well as traffic and transit implications, before any pedestrian traffic is reintroduced on a phased-in basis, he said.
Bowman supports placing the issue on the Oct. 24 civic election ballot, "allowing all Winnipeg residents to have their say on this matter," Hildebrand said.
Allowing pedestrians to cross Portage and Main has never been identified as a priority on the city’s Master Transportation Plan, Shaw said, adding city hall should concentrate on dealing with that plan's stated priorities.
"Infrastructure funds are limited. This is a trade corridor. Why are we investing in a project that will reduce safety and efficiency on a Winnipeg trade corridor, especially when other projects identified on the transportation master plan remain unaddressed?" he said.
Shaw said the trucking industry might have a different response if the city had completed a conceptual design and study showing safety and delay issues can be addressed and presented it to the public for input.
A preliminary transportation study was completed by Dillon Consulting, which looked at five different options for pedestrians to cross at the intersection. The study, which focused on pedestrian, private vehicle and transit travel times travel times, recommended one that would generate only minor traffic-flow delays.
Dillon acknowledged that the interaction of pedestrians and turning vehicles poses safety risks and that the simulation models it used on the various options could not address them, but did say safety could be enhanced with improvements to driver sightlines and traffic signals.
A second consulting contract, based on the Dillon study, that would have produced the conceptual design the trucking industry and others are waiting for has been withdrawn pending the outcome of the Oct. 24 referendum.
Shaw said the trucking association isn’t planning any public campaigning leading up to the ballot question and doesn’t believe it’s necessary.
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.