News / Winnipeg

Bowman calls two-year planning estimate for Portage and Main reopening 'inaccurate'

Winnipeg's mayor says he was surprised to hear the city's director of public works even suggest that.

Mayor Brian Bowman disagrees with city hall staff on how long it will take to plan the barricade teardown at Portage and Main.

David Lipnowski/For Metro

Mayor Brian Bowman disagrees with city hall staff on how long it will take to plan the barricade teardown at Portage and Main.

There appears to be confusion at Winnipeg City Hall over how much planning needs to be done before the barricades at Portage and Main can be torn down.

On Wednesday, Mayor Brian Bowman rejected the public works director's recent comments on the project, calling them "inaccurate.”

Lester Deane suggested to reporters it would take two years of planning before work could get underway to reopen the historic intersection to pedestrians.

Bowman said that estimation came as a surprise.

“His statements were inaccurate,” he said.

“Let me be clear, I mean the reality is is that the timelines that are being contemplated vary and it really is going to be dependent upon how the discussions continue to go with the property owners, but it could happen sooner, it could happen later.”

Bowman added it is the city’s chief administrative officer, Doug McNeil—not Deane — who is in charge of negotiating with the different building owners and making a recommendation to council on what the next steps should be.

McNeil wouldn’t say Deane’s estimation was incorrect, but also wouldn’t provide any indications as to when the barriers could fall or how long the technical planning process could take.

He confirmed, however, it was the public works department that undertook a traffic study with Dillon Consulting to examine the impact of reopening the intersection to pedestrians. 

A briefing note obtained by Metro that was sent from Deane to the CAO back in May said the study would include a Class 4 cost estimate to the project. 

Neither McNeil nor Bowman said on Wednesday that they have read the report.

The day before, Deane told reporters the study concludes that reintroducing pedestrian traffic back to the intersection is possible, but it would mean some delays to drivers and transit.

Residents can expect some of this confusion to be cleared up in the coming months, as McNeil said a report will be presented to council that includes information about cost estimates and updates on the ongoing discussions with property owners.

That report should be made public in the next few months, he said.

McNeil said the city would likely spend money on performing upgrades to the city owned areas of the underground concourse.

Reopening the historic intersection, which has been closed to those on foot since 1979, was one of Bowman's campaign promises during the 2014 election. 

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