June 17, 2019

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Bike-path work overkill: official

Bureaucrat concedes workload daunting for city, residents

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2010 (3183 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The official in charge of Winnipeg's $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade that has sparked criticism and controversy says he hopes the city won't attempt such an ambitious bike-and-pedestrian overhaul in a single year ever again.

In an interview with the Free Press, public works project manager Bill Woroby suggested what Mayor Sam Katz and other senior officials have refused to concede over the past week -- that this year's 36-project upgrade was too ambitious to tackle over the course of one construction season.

"Hopefully not," said Woroby when asked whether Winnipeg should ever repeat this year's attempt to add 102 kilometres of cycling routes to the city's existing 274-kilometre network. All three levels of government paid for the project, the largest commuter-cycling upgrade ever attempted in Winnipeg.

"It's hard to deliver 30-odd projects in one year. Not only are there 30-odd projects, you're undertaking public consultation at the same time and introducing people to new facilities they're not used to," Woroby said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/9/2010 (3183 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A commuter cycles past the bikeway construction on Assiniboine Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

A commuter cycles past the bikeway construction on Assiniboine Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

The official in charge of Winnipeg's $20.4-million active-transportation upgrade that has sparked criticism and controversy says he hopes the city won't attempt such an ambitious bike-and-pedestrian overhaul in a single year ever again.

In an interview with the Free Press, public works project manager Bill Woroby suggested what Mayor Sam Katz and other senior officials have refused to concede over the past week — that this year's 36-project upgrade was too ambitious to tackle over the course of one construction season.

"Hopefully not," said Woroby when asked whether Winnipeg should ever repeat this year's attempt to add 102 kilometres of cycling routes to the city's existing 274-kilometre network. All three levels of government paid for the project, the largest commuter-cycling upgrade ever attempted in Winnipeg.

"It's hard to deliver 30-odd projects in one year. Not only are there 30-odd projects, you're undertaking public consultation at the same time and introducing people to new facilities they're not used to," Woroby said.

"This has certainly challenged the delivery. It has not given the public the opportunity to appreciate the facilities we have in place. Once people see the completed project, they will see it as a great addition to the city."

Katz and other officials have repeatedly said the tight time frame for the ambitious slate of projects had nothing to do with a public-consultation process both he and mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis have described as a failure.

Federal infrastructure-funding rules require the projects to be finished before the end of March 2011, which effectively means all but three parts of the upgrade must be finished before the winter, when snowfall makes it impossible to lay concrete.

One project, a $1-million bridge in Omand Park, was cancelled and replaced with $100,000 worth of path improvements. A second, the $250,000 Bannatyne-McDermot Bikeway, is in limbo to allow more dialogue with residents and businesses.

A third, the Assiniboine Bikeway, is nearing completion despite a lawsuit six Broadway-Assiniboine businesses have launched. There's also opposition to projects along Berry Street, Grosvenor Avenue, Sherbrook Street and Harrow Street.

As of Tuesday, 32 out of 34 green-lighted projects were either under construction or nearing completion, said Woroby. Construction on the final two will begin shortly.

Woroby dismissed suggestions a round of cuts to the public service last year had any effect on the projects or their public consultation. "We did what was required, with the resources we had in hand," he said.

The city employed seven consulting firms to engineer what were originally 36 projects, while two other firms were hired to co-ordinate the upgrade. The city asked private firms to conduct the public consultations last November, but cancelled the search four days before it closed.

Former city communications manager Ed Shiller said he felt $125,000 was too much to spend on public relations consultants. He said the city did a good job engaging the public on its own early this year, beginning at Katz's state of the city address in January.

"We produced fantastic literature, describing every single one of the projects then under consideration. Then we set up a whole series of public consultations," said Shiller, who left the city at the end of March.

After his departure, private consulting firms took over the communications strategy as well as the public-consultation meetings. Woroby said the city responded to the advice it received at all of the meetings.

But even active-transportation proponents say the public ignored these events.

"I was at 99 per cent of those consultations and the turnout was minimal," said Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association. "No one reads the notices, but when the bulldozers are on the street, then people perk up. It's too bad. I just hope someone has the balls to keep things moving forward."

Others want more projects placed on hold. Ellice Cafe and Theatre manager Belinda Squance, for example, plans to meet with public works director Brad Sacher this week to convince the city to shelve the $228,000 Sherbrook/Maryland bike-lane project until parking issues in the West End are addressed. Squance said she supports cyclists but wishes the city actually studied where they go.

Other cycling advocates complain the upgrade was a rush job.

"A tight timeline for the project and the need to spend federal funds within this timeline no doubt was the issue in regards to actively engaging others," said Downtown BIZ director Stefano Grande. "Active transportation has to be part of the overall infrastructure strategy, not an afterthought (that involves) trying to fit a peg in a hole."

Katz's campaign described the ongoing headaches as "growing pains."

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

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