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Winnipeg

Motion to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians clears first hurdle

A city committee unanimously passed a motion Thursday to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrians.

A motion from property and development committee chair Sherri Rollins recommends spending $13 million on the initial design and construction requirements needed to open the intersection at the street level by July 1, 2025.

To hit that timeline, the motion calls for a single-source contract for all engineering services.

If approved, the underground concourse would be decommissioned following an assessment of the below-ground structure. The motion says negotiations would take place with property owners at the four corners over land acquisition, and the city would also consult with impacted businesses.

The move comes after a report released Friday estimates it will cost $73 million to repair a waterproof membrane that protects the underground concourse.

That same report says closing the underground could cost between $20 and $50 million.

A separate news release from the Mayor’s office says it costs the city nearly $1 million to operate the underground.

“Between 2018 and 2023, operating expenses for the underground concourse – including security, maintenance, cleaning services and utilities – exceeded rental income by an annual average of $965,832,” the release said.

“The ongoing expense to keep the Portage and Main underground open is not sustainable,” Mayor Scott Gillingham said in the news release. “We could use that funding to improve other city services and infrastructure to make downtown more appealing to people and businesses. A more practical approach would be to close the underground concourse and allow pedestrian crossings at street level, like every other intersection.”

The motion will go before the city’s executive policy committee on March 12.

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