The best way to make an informed decision is to get all the facts. Below are some of the key benefits to reopening the intersection and facts that dispel many of the “myths” being circulated about reopening the intersection to pedestrians.
Reopening our iconic intersection is about much more than removing the pedestrian barricades. It’s about encouraging new economic opportunity, improving accessibility and safety, and reimaging what the intersection at the heart of our downtown could look like.
The Benefits of Opening Portage and Main
Multiple parties who have a stake in the intersection have signed letters of support for bringing pedestrians back to the intersection, including The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, Exchange District BIZ, and all five property owners at the intersection.
Pedestrian foot traffic at the street level will create new opportunities for commercial development at the street level and make the vacant buildings, empty storefronts, and surface parking lots more attractive to investment.
Creating a Welcoming City
Portage and Main is the most iconic intersection in Western Canada, but most Winnipeggers can’t remember the last time they stood there.
Removing the barricades is an opportunity to create a place that once again inspires us, that celebrates our city as a place to come together, welcoming tourists, business and all Winnipeggers back to the heart of downtown.
Once the privately-owned office towers above are closed, pedestrians can only access the underground concourse through a series of dark, isolated stairways and empty corridors, which contribute to the feeling of being unsafe downtown.
Crossing the street at the sidewalk level will allow pedestrians to stay in the open, remaining visible and more secure.
Right now it takes more than 9 minutes to cross Portage and Main in a wheelchair, and requires the use of: four elevators, two ramps, and five automatic door openers.
When the private businesses above are closed after work, crossing the intersection for someone who can’t navigate stairwells means adding an additional 300 metres, of +1300 feet, in two of the four directions just to cross the street.
A street-level crossing is accessible and much faster for everyone.
Dispelling Myths Around Opening Portage and Main
Cost of Renovation
The expected costs of construction are $3.8 million, with a contingency of $2.3 million to cover any cost overruns which could happen when digging up 40-year old infrastructure.
To put the $6.1-million overall construction cost into perspective, the city currently has 82 capital projects underway that cost more than $5-million.
Additionally, the barriers at Portage and Main and the city owned underground concourse are crumbling and in need of significant repair. The cost of this work to keep the barriers up has not been identified but it will likely be significant.
Portage and Main isn’t Winnipeg’s busiest intersection. In fact, it’s not even in the top 5!
Opening the intersection will eliminate jaywalking across Portage East, and while the transportation study showed that risks of a collision with pedestrians will undoubtedly increase from zero, they won’t any more frequent than any other major intersection in Winnipeg.
The underground concourse will still be available for winter days when it’s too cold.
For reference, Winnipeg experiences 200 days where the temperature is above 10°C and 250 days above 0°C.
The Portage and Main Transportation Study found that introducing pedestrians to P&M will cause a delay of 33 seconds during rush hour than today’s traffic. When we apply these effects across downtown, the average overall commute time will increase by a total of 45 seconds.
The two largest routes, Main Street northbound and southbound through traffic, representing 50% of all cars entering the intersection, will experience no change.
In the morning rush hour travel times will not be significantly different from today. Cars will take an average of only 10 seconds longer to get through the intersection, and the average overall commute across downtown will increase by only 18 seconds.
The underground mall and other retail spaces are privately owned, and each owner supports opening the intersection to pedestrians at the sidewalk, as businesses will continue to enjoy similar levels of foot traffic from fall to spring, and will benefit from the additional density created by more economic activity at the street level.
Ready to Get Involved?
Together we can make Portage and Main an intersection for everyone to enjoy. Check out our volunteer page for ways you can get involved.