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.
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.
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.
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.
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"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 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.
It’s simply known as Option 4, but its impact will be significant.
Option 4 — one of five widening options for Kenaston/Route 90 presented to the public in 2009 and 2010 during a series of open houses — calls for widening the west side of Kenaston between Taylor Avenue and Tuxedo Boulevard, and then widening the east side of Kenaston, between Tuxedo and the St. James bridges.
According to the Request For Proposals document that was issued in June 2017, the city will have to acquire 136 properties along Kenaston: 94 single homes and 21 duplex units. Of these, 52 homes are privately owned and 81 are owned by the Department of Defence.
The widening of Kenaston will provide for 1.8-metre-wide sidewalks on both sides, plus a 3-metre-wide cycling and pedestrian pathway on the west side, from Taylor to Wellington Crescent.
The RFP states the widening of Kenaston will require the closing of several side streets at Kenaston (north of Willow Avenue, on both east and west sides of Kenaston) and a pedestrian bridge across Kenaston at Lockston Avenue.
For the west side widening, the city will have to acquire a strip of land from Taylor to Tuxedo, consisting of the Kapyong Barracks property and the military housing north of the barracks land.
Transitioning to the east side would occur between Lockston Boulevard and Tuxedo, with the taking of private homes and properties north to Academy Road.
For the bridge project, the RFP states both north and south bound spans will be widened to four lanes. The city wants a realignment of the eastward off-ramp to Portage Avenue, which now cuts through the Viscount Gort Hotel property.
For the southbound span, the city is going to require the roadway to be realignment and straightened.
The RFP said the southbound span of the bridge was constructed in 1936 and most recently rehabilitated in 2016. The span is expected to reach its useable service life by 2021 to 2023.
The northbound span was constructed in 1962 and rehabilitated in 1987.
The RFP is requiring the WSP Canada consulting team to include at least one “industry recognized bicycle facilities design expert with extensive knowledge and experience in the design of complex bicycle facilities in North America.”
WSP Canada is required to produce a draft preliminary design by Aug. 31, 2018. The tentative date for a public open house to review the preliminary designs is set for Nov. 1, 2018. The consultant will be expected to submit a final preliminary design by Feb. 28, 2019.
— Aldo Santin
The battle OF Kapyong lasted only three days in 1951 as Canadian soldiers held their ground against impossible odds in the Korean War.
But the battle over what to do with the barracks named after that proud part of Canada’s military history continues today.
In this series, the Free Press examines how much longer Winnipeg will have to wait for this urban blight to be redeveloped.