A group of St. Boniface residents who mobilized neighbours against a city plan to redevelop the Marion-Archibald intersection into a massive freeway say they want city hall to adopt the original 2012 plan to upgrade the intersection.
Residents Michelle Berger, Sandra Dupuis and Christine Trickey said if city hall is intent on upgrading the intersection, the best option is the one with the least impact on the surrounding area: a 2012 proposal for widening Archibald to create two northbound left-turn lanes to speed traffic through the intersection.
"We're not going to let them destroy our neighbourhood," said Berger, of the Seine River Bonivital Residents Association.
'We're not going to let them destroy our neighbourhood'— St. Boniface resident Michelle Berger
The three women met and became friends when Dupuis and her sister, Teresa Cwik, began knocking on hundreds of doors in the area in the spring, alerting residents and businesses to the extent of the city's designs and its intentions for widespread expropriation and demolition of properties.
Their objections to the proposed super-expressway plan led to the creation of a local residents group for the two areas most affected by the proposal — the Archwood and Dufresne neighbourhoods.
The women surveyed residents and businesses and conducted extensive research, combing through the city's records and plans that detailed the evolution of the Marion-Archibald project.
Berger said the modest 2012 plan, with an estimated price tag of $70 million, accomplishes the city's goal of improving traffic flow without the destructive elements in the $250-million megaproject. The $250-million plan would require the expropriation and demolition of 140 homes and businesses to create a six-lane expressway with a double underpass where Marion Street crosses at Archibald Street and the CPR Emerson rail line.
A city spokeswoman said the widening and underpasses were incorporated into the super-expressway proposal because they had been recommendations from the 2011 Master Transportation Plan.
Councillors were told by city administrators during a private seminar in March all of the city's at-grade rail line crossings had to be reviewed to ensure they complied with the new federal rail-crossing-safety regulations that were announced in December 2014.
The 2012 plan didn't deal with the rail-line crossing.
While many motorists bemoan the time spent waiting for the trains crossing Marion along the CPR Emerson line, Berger and the others said area residents aren't convinced a rail-line underpass is needed there.
They said area residents don't believe traffic delays caused by four to eight train crossings a day warrant the expense associated with constructing an underpass or the super-expressway proposed by the city.
The three women said if city planners still believe more needs to be done to improve east-west traffic flows, there are other options that do not involve destroying their neighbourhood, including: convincing CPR to allow a commuter-train service to operate on the CPR Emerson line (the 2011 Transportation Master Plan proposed using the rail right-of-way for a southeastern transit corridor); removing the rail lines from the city; or, extending Provencher Boulevard east to Mission Street and creating a roadway link to Nairn Avenue.
Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the public works committee, said an administrative report on the Marion-Archibald project will be brought to her committee early in 2016. Lukes said she never supported the project and doesn't see it making its way to council.
The residents said while all signs indicate the super-expressway project is dead, they're not letting up their guard until that's official. "We're not going to sit back and allow it to happen," Dupuis said.
Realizing the strong area opposition, area Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) said he will ask the public works committee to send the project back for a complete redesign.
"We'd be happy with that," Berger said. "We'd be happy if they did nothing with the intersection."
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.
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