Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Voters Could Vote on Future of Downtown Intersection Portage and Main

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Winnipeg Voters Could Vote on Future of Downtown Intersection Portage and Main

Article excerpt

Future of Winnipeg intersection may go to referendum


WINNIPEG - For decades, Winnipeg residents have debated the idea of allowing pedestrians to once again cross a downtown intersection many consider iconic.

This fall, they may be able to vote on it.

Mayor Brian Bowman announced Wednesday he supports a fellow councillor's motion to include a referendum question in the upcoming municipal election on whether to remove the concrete barriers that prevent people from crossing the road at Portage Ave. and Main St.

"I've been listening, and certainly respect that Winnipeggers have passionate and polarizing views on the intersection's future," he wrote on Twitter. "Winnipeggers will expect the results to be honoured which I'm committed to do regardless of the outcome."

Arguments over a roadway juncture may be minor in other cities, but in Winnipeg, there has been passionate -- sometimes heated -- debate between those who say the barriers help traffic flow and those who say removing them is crucial to help turn Winnipeg's downtown into a more-modern, people-friendly metropolis.

"Forty years ago, we decided to erect concrete walls and remove people from a place that has held a special narrative in our city, and to be honest, in the country," said Brent Bellamy, an architect who chairs an arm's-length city development agency with a focus on the downtown.

"Two generations have only known Portage and Main in the configuration of what is essentially a freeway interchange. It has lost its special place."

There is no public square in the intersection. There's not much to see except office towers on the corners, traffic lights, several lanes of traffic, and an old Bank of Montreal building from the city's early days.

But Portage and Main is held dear to many people's hearts. It was where the city's first business was set up outside a fort to the south. It was the centre of Winnipeg as the city grew, a century ago, to become the gateway to the West.

The intersection has appeared on a stamp, been the subject of a song by rocker Randy Bachman, and is where people gather, blocking traffic, when the NHL Winnipeg Jets give fans cause to celebrate. …

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