A group of like-minded citizens, business owners, planners and marketing firms have formed a coalition to convince Winnipeggers to open Portage and Main.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about this intersection, about this issue, and our main goal is to clear up some of that misinformation,” said Adam Dooley, owner of Dooley Communications.
“I don’t think people really understand that this could not be built today. It does not conform to our accessibility standards and why would we not want our most iconic corner available and accessible to people in wheelchairs or seniors who have mobility issues?”
In less than three months when Winnipeggers head to the polls, they’ll not only be asked to vote for a new city council, but also answer the following question:
“Do you support the opening of Portage & Main to pedestrian crossings? YES/NO”.
The decision to add the question to the October civic election ballot was passed by Winnipeg’s city council earlier this month after a motion made by North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty.
“The Coalition for Portage and Main” was formed after the plebiscite was announced, said Dooley.
“This is a question of what kind of city do we want to live in? If barricades were a great idea we’d see them everywhere, we need to open this intersection up.”
The core group is made up of about a dozen people, but their numbers are growing daily. They’ve even created a hashtag – #VoteOpenWPG – and they are all working pro bono, said Dooley.
The plan is to launch a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise funds for lawn signs, public rallies and to help get coalition’s message out and dispel some myths.
“Our main goal is, let’s get some information out there so people have the right information to make a decision in October.”
“Cost is another thing you hear wild things about,” Dooley explained. “The estimate that we’ve heard from the Dillon report in 2016 is that it would be $6.1 million dollars, and that includes doing some necessary renovations and upgrades.”
Too much money: Browaty
Meanwhile those on team ‘No’ say the cost to reopen Portage and Main is just too much.
“I mean the cost is significant, especially when you look at all the other priorities we have in the city of Winnipeg,” Browaty said.
“When you add it all up, I don’t think it’s worth it, again even if the cost was zero I still don’t think it’s a good idea.”
And then there’s the safety element. According to Browaty, there’s about 77,000 vehicle movements throughout Portage and Main daily.
“Safety is a big concern. Being able to continue to move traffic through our city, a lot of traffic throughout the city does go through Portage and Main. I think there’s better use of taxpayers dollars at the end of the day,” Browaty said.
Mayoral Candidate Jenny Motkaluk made it a campaign pledge to not open Portage and Main. She said the plebiscite is a distraction from Winnipeg’s real issues.
“There are a lot of things that we need to do in the city of Winnipeg and we only have so many resources. Opening Portage and Main is at best going to cost tens of millions of dollars, it’s going to require the effort of a lot of city bureaucrats and we have more important things to do,” Motkaluk said.
Mayor Brian Bowman has gone on record to say even though the question isn’t legally binding, the results of the vote will be for him. Bowman campaigned on the issue of opening up the iconic intersection in the last election.
The civic election is on Oct. 24.