January 24, 2020

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Slow speed ahead

Confusion over fate of Kapyong Barracks leaves Kenaston Boulevard project in neutral

The property at Kapyong Barracks, situated on the edge of Tuxedo at the corner of Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard, is worth millions. TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The property at Kapyong Barracks, situated on the edge of Tuxedo at the corner of Grant Avenue and Kenaston Boulevard, is worth millions. TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/4/2018 (662 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EVERY weekday morning, thousands of motorists from Linden Woods, Whyte Ridge and Waverley West begin their slow northerly traffic crawl along Kenaston Boulevard through River Heights.

Speed up, slow down, lurch to a stop. Past the empty buildings, empty fields and razor wire-enclosed compounds of the former Kapyong Barracks. They repeat the process again as they head home.

Every day, nearly 80,000 vehicles travel north and south along the major four-lane roadway that city politicians realize has been inadequate for years, even before the increased traffic from new growth in the southwest corner of Winnipeg.

City hall does have an ambitious plan to widen Kenaston Boulevard and Route 90, from Taylor Avenue north to Ness Avenue. It involves adding an extra lane in both directions and rebuilding the southbound and northbound spans of the St. James Bridge.

Option 4: Academy to Tuxedo (City of Winnipeg)

Option 4: Academy to Tuxedo (City of Winnipeg)

But much like the commute, it’s a slow-moving process, more likely stuck in neutral than in drive.

The uncertainty surrounding the availability of the former Kapyong Barracks site, which is federal government land, has tempered city hall’s enthusiasm for the project. In 2015, city administration listed Kenaston Boulevard widening as the No. 2 priority in the city’s infrastructure projects. Council pushed it down to No. 4 because there doesn’t appear to be a resolution to the negotiations between the federal government and the First Nations that want the property.

While there was speculation city hall could go ahead with expropriation, Mayor Brian Bowman said he has no plans to do that until there is an agreement between Ottawa and the First Nations.

"That isn’t something we’re contemplating, bypassing (Ottawa) and the First Nations," Bowman told the Free Press late last year. "We’re hearing they may be getting closer. I’ll wait until that’s done… I’m not even sure of the legalities. It’s federal land — if you can even do that, to be honest. It isn’t something I would look into."

Consulting firm WSP Canada was hired in September 2017 on a $2.6-million contract to design a complete revamp of the roadway, from Taylor to Ness avenues, building on designs it presented to open houses in 2009 and 2010 (when the firm was known as MMM Group).

Based on public feedback and an administration recommendation, council formally endorsed Option 4, of five designs presented at the open houses. It involves acquiring property along the west side of Kenaston, from Taylor to Tuxedo, and a strip of land taken from the properties on the east side of Kenaston, from Tuxedo to Academy Road.

WSP is expected to produce a draft preliminary design by Aug. 31. The tentative date for a public open house to review the preliminary designs is set for Nov. 1. The consultant will be expected to submit a final preliminary design by Feb. 28, 2019.

It’s unknown when construction will take place. Council has not set aside money for the project, other than the study, in its five-year capital forecast. The administration says the southbound span of the St. James Bridge will need to be replaced by 2023, but no money has been earmarked for that, either.

The work will be costly and it’s unlikely city hall will proceed with the project without contributions from the federal and provincial governments.

In 2009, the cost estimate to widen Kenaston, including the bridge replacements, was $129 million. A notation in the 2018 budget book puts the estimate at $400 million, including $60 million to replace the southbound bridge.

Option 4: Corydon to Grant (City of Winnipeg)

Option 4: Corydon to Grant (City of Winnipeg)

Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of council’s property and development committee who is also the councillor for River Heights, said in June that the decision to authorize the widening study was based on concerns about the structural viability of the St. James Bridge.

Orlikow said it’s not necessary for the Kapyong situation to be resolved before work begins on the two spans of the bridge, but it would be preferable. "We can work on that one project if we had to, but we’d like to see the whole thing done at once."

WSP Canada was instructed to design the widening project so it could be done in stages. The first phase involves the Ness to Tuxedo avenues portion. The widening of the stretch from Tuxedo to Taylor, which encompasses the Kapyong Barracks property and the military housing, would be in the second phase.

City hall declined to make anyone from its public works or planning departments available to discuss the project. City documents acknowledge what motorists have known for years: traffic along Kenaston/Route 90 is a mess, as is traffic on the cross streets.

"The existing Route 90 intersections within the study area are currently operating at low levels of service characterized by long queues, stop-and-go traffic, extended travel times, and increased collision risk," stated the city’s request for proposals (RFP) document issued in June.

Option 4: Grant to Taylor (City of Winnipeg)

Option 4: Grant to Taylor (City of Winnipeg)

The city says traffic moves well north of Ness Avenue and south of Sterling Lyon Parkway, but the RFP describes the stretch of Route 90 in between as "choke points," causing traffic to back up on east-west routes, including Academy Road and Grant Avenue.

"Based on current traffic volumes, a four-lane facility is not sustainable and additional lanes on Route 90 are required."

Former River Heights councillor Garth Steek said not only does the city have to fix the problem, it has to do it right.

"The idea of widening (Kenaston) just makes good sense," said Steek, who represented River Heights from 1995 to 2004, the year Kapyong was mothballed by the military.

While the city is planning to add one lane in each direction, Steek said he believes pressures from growth in the city’s southwest demands Kenaston should be doubled to four lanes in both directions — if the city can afford it.

"I’d like to think being visionary, they would know the southwest quadrant of the city is where the growth obviously is, preparing for the future for the next quarter century that ultimately you’ll have to have (four lanes in each direction)," Steek said. "Do it once, do it right."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Download Option 4 summary

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

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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