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December 7, 2019

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The argument for re-opening Portage and Main

Columnist Trevor Smith says cities are for people first, then cars.

PHOTO BY PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS PHOTO ARCHIVES

Columnist Trevor Smith says cities are for people first, then cars.

There’s a civic election coming in October and the re-opening of the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrians seems to be an issue. Mayor Bowman pledged in the last election to open this intersection during his term in office.

Now there’s a call for a plebiscite on the issue, and I seem to be one of the few people in Winnipeg who thinks this is a good idea.

Let me tell you why.

If you go one block north or south or west of this intersection pedestrians can cross the street with no problems.

Even Confusion Corner, that city planner’s wild dream at the south end of Osborne Village, allows people to cross on foot. Same thing at the intersection of Regent Avenue and Lagimodiere Boulevard, and look at all the lanes of traffic there.

Other cities seem to have figured this out. Hyde Park Corner in London, for example, or Times Square in New York City are cultural hubs where traffic and pedestrians mix safely. These locations have become go-to places for both tourists and locals alike to check out what’s happening. A lot happens there, very safely, in close proximity to traffic.

Could the same happen here in Winnipeg?

I remember the days when Corydon Avenue was just another street. Prior to 1985 The Forks was just an ugly industrial wasteland. Look at it now.

If Portage and Main is re-opened there are opportunities for many things here in the historic centre of town.

To quote a line from Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come."

As it stands now, if you’re not a regular visitor to the area, you can easily become very confused attempting to get from one side of the street to the other by using the underground subway. And we all know this system was part of a deal struck with the developers of Winnipeg Square to get people down there to shop and eat and interact.

As for detractors citing the multi-million dollar cost to open the intersection, just think about it for a second.

What’s involved ? The removal of some concrete barriers. I’m sure a city work crew could accomplish that within half a day.

Steve Juba had a vision of monorails that unfortunately didn’t come to pass.

Glenn Murray left his mark with the Esplanade Riel, which now features in almost every photograph of our downtown.

This could become Mayor Bowman’s legacy to our city.

Remember... cities are for people first, then cars.

Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights. You can contact him via email at smitht@mymts.net

Trevor Smith

Trevor Smith
River Heights community correspondent

Trevor Smith is a community correspondent for River Heights.

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