Posts Tagged ‘disraeli freeway’

“I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”
– 19th century British statesman and Winnipeg freeway namesake Benjamin Disraeli.

A few bloggers (Graham the rabblerouser and the ever-mysterious Black Rod) have mentioned that some citizens, including myself, had brought plans forward regarding the Disraeli Bridges Project.  My plan, based on conversations with literally hundreds of Winnipeggers, was to twin the Louise Bridge with a temporary span before any Disraeli closure was to take place.

However, the plan was not perfect: it required leasing of private property (a shed and equipment yard) and would have increased traffic on Higgins Avenue, which did not please some Point Douglas residents.  But I did feel that it was the best option considering the limitations that had we had been told existed.

Of course, most of Winnipeg found out in January of 2010, after four years of talk, that the bridge did not need to be closed at all.  Is that good news?  Yes and no.

It’s good news because the closure of Disraeli was unthinkable without increasing the capacity of other bridges.

It’s bad news because it shows that the city was completely wrong about the limitations of the project, and misinformed the 100,000 affected Winnipeggers for FOUR YEARS.   Not only did this cause undue worry, it also caused several businesses on Henderson to move to another part of the city.  In addition, there is still no plan for the Louise Bridge.

The options the city presented were either a) $250-300 million six-lane bridge still using the old piers and adding some new ones, or b) $125 million bridge refurbishment with 16 months of closure.  Now, the city is saying that a brand new four-lane bridge can be built for $195 million without any closure.

How can a third option come out of nowhere when the city made it abundantly clear that there were only two options?  There are two possibilities for this:

1. The city did not research the project thoroughly before deciding on what they found to be the easiest solution (particularly because they didn’t rely on the bridge to get to work each day).

2. The current project estimates are far too low, meaning that the $195 million price tag will be inflated significantly once construction has begun.

As a public-private partnership, the second option may not be a bad thing, depending on the specifics of the contract.  The city is borrowing $75 million up front, while the private consortium, Plenary Roads Winnipeg, will finance the remaining $120 million.  It is not clear from the information I have seen if cost overruns will be the responsibility of the private group or of the city, or if both will share the extra expense.

At this point, all that is clear is that the city did not think the closure was a big issue until the provincial government finally woke up and decided that it was an issue during a by-election campaign.

So in the end, is the new Disraeli plan a triumph?  No.  It’s a solution that should have been inevitable, but one which the city spent four years decrying as impossible.  The city and province both showed a serious lack of leadership on this issue.  At a time when we are all watching with curious dismay as the US House and Senate whittle away any chance of health care reform due to shortsightedness, partisanship, and selfishness, we see our own governments spending four years avoiding an issue that should have been resolved in four months.

I’m not sad that the city didn’t choose my fancy Disraeli plan, or that the city didn’t bother to consider it on any level; that’s the way government works around here, so it’s like being sad that pigs don’t fly.  But what I am sad about is that the leadership in this city and province has not even considered the damage that this four-year stunt has caused to the Elmwood residents and businesses at the foot of the bridge.

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MP Jim Maloway is taking a page from Pat Martin’s playbook and prematurely announcing that the provincial government will be contributing at least $50 million to the city for a new four lane Disraeli to be built alongside the existing bridge.  The plan is to keep the current bridge open until the new bridge has been completed, which would eliminate most of the construction gridlock.

Mayor Sam Katz has responded to Maloway’s announcement, saying that it will cost $200 million to create the bridge that Maloway describes including Active Transportation.  (it’s unclear if the $200 million would include a separate Active Transportation bridge, or Active Transportation lanes on a new Disraeli span.

Quite a few people are upset that the plan is for only four lanes, and not six.  There are traffic delays along Henderson just north of the Disraeli bridge, so many residents would like to see a six lane bridge to ease congestion.  Unfortunately, a six lane bridge won’t ease that congestion, because the bottleneck happens at Hespeler Avenue and will continue to happen no matter how many bridge lanes are added.

One of the things about traffic flow is that limited-access expressways are different from regular thoroughfares.  Generally, a regular thoroughfare requires one extra lane both ways compared to an expressway, because it needs a lane for turning, bus stops, and cyclists.   Henderson is a thoroughfare, and that third lane greatly increases the efficiency of the road, because it usually means two unobstructed lanes available to traffic.  This gives Henderson as many unobstructed lanes as Disraeli has, since Disraeli has ramps for turning and for bus stops.

Disraeli Freeway is a true freeway for most of its length; of course, it’s an older freeway, so its on and off ramps are shorter than most.  It also has the issue of a pedestrian crossing on its Sutherland Avenue ramps, which slow traffic slightly.  Even with these shortcomings, the Disraeli does not have any major bottlenecks.  In truth, while traffic often slows during rush hours, particularly heading away from Downtown in the evening, traffic rarely comes to a stop on Disraeli.  When traffic is stopped, it is normally due to traffic backups from the lights at Hespeler Avenue, and in particular the light for turning onto Hespeler.

The addition of a third lane will not eliminate traffic backups at Hespeler, as it will not lower the amount of time spent at the Hespeler traffic lights.  There are only two ways to improve traffic flow on Henderson:

1.    Widen Henderson Hwy from three lanes to four, forcing business and residents to relocate: This is not considered a realistic or practical solution.
2.    Lessen the amount of traffic on Henderson Hwy or on Hespeler/Talbot/Midwinter: moving traffic to another route would reduce the bottleneck.

Other options do not result in better flow.  Removing access to Hespeler from Northbound Henderson would cause as much or more traffic problems as commuters attempt to use Johnson or a side street to reach the Redwood Bridge.  Building an interchange for Henderson, Hespeler, Talbot and Disraeli is even less practical than widening Henderson itself due to space limitations.

Assuming that population growth in North Kildonan, Transcona, and outlying municipalities will continue, it is reasonable to assume that traffic volume on Henderson will continue to increase.  Unless alternatives to even more cars on Henderson Hwy can be found, no amount of investment on Disraeli will prepare the Northeast for more traffic.

There are three major road projects occurring in Northeast Winnipeg over the next decade:

1.    Disraeli Bridge reconstruction
2.    Chief Peguis Trail extension from Henderson Hwy to Lagimodiere Blvd
3.    Louise Bridge relocation and reconstruction

All three projects are ambitious and will change the way traffic flows in the Northeast.  However, these three projects are missing one very important piece: connections between them.  Chief Peguis will function well for commuters who live at the North edge of Winnipeg, but will not alleviate traffic issues closer to downtown.  Commuters travelling to and from downtown will still need to take Henderson Hwy, and many will continue to take the smaller East-West routes to get to Lagimodiere and beyond.  The best route to take commuters from downtown to Lagimodiere is currently underused: the twin routes, Gateway Rd and Raleigh Street.

Gateway and Raleigh have the potential to become part of an efficient thoroughfare that runs directly from The Forks to Lagimodiere and the Perimeter.  This route does not need to become a high-speed freeway (or neighbourhood annihilation road); it can have speeds ranging from 50-70 kph as it runs diagonally to the Northeast corner of Winnipeg.  This route comes with room for a transitway and with an Active Transportation corridor that is mostly developed already.

Here is one possible path for the Gateway / Raleigh route (tongue-in-cheek suggestion: we could call it Gary Doer Blvd if that brings in some provincial money):

1.    The south end of Gary Doer Blvd is where Higgins Avenue meets Waterfront Drive.  The new road runs north to the CPR tracks and follows them to the Red River at the eastern tip of Point Douglas, where it crosses the river and Archibald Street via the new four-lane Louise Bridge.
2.    Once over Archibald, Gary Doer Blvd heads under the Nairn Overpass.  This portion is the most complex of the entire plan, because there are three rail lines to negotiate to arrive under Nairn Avenue.  Part of the new Louise Bridge is the offshoot that leads to the upcoming Russ Wyatt Parkway, which leads to Transcona.  This portion won’t of course be started until after Russ is crowned king of Winnipeg in 2020 (my timeline could be a little off).
3.    From under Nairn, Gary Doer Blvd crosses Talbot and heads along Raleigh and Gateway.  The boulevard has three lanes each way, but the right lane is a diamond lane.  It’s not a diamond lane for buses, which actually use the center lane to access their bus turnouts along the Northeast Pioneers Greenway, but for turning on and off the boulevard from the various side streets that pour into the road.
4.    North of the new intersection with Concordia and Kimberley, Gary Doer Blvd’s southbound lanes run alongside the northbound lanes, completely East of the Greenway.  The five residential streets from Helmsdale to Roberta Avenues see the once busy Raleigh Street replaced with a one-way and single-lane road to connect the streets to their back lanes and to each other, with outgoing traffic using Golspie St to access Kimberley.  This allows Centennial and Anderson parks to connect directly to the Greenway without any roads in between.  This arrangement continues, with only minor adjustments, all the way to Springfield Rd.
5.    Chief Peguis Trail and Gary Doer Blvd meet with an interchange, the only one that Gary Doer Blvd has between the Louise Bridge and the Perimeter.
6.    After Chief Peguis, Gary Doer Blvd continues to Knowles Avenue.  At Knowles, the route turns almost due east, where it connects to Lagimodiere and the Perimeter as part of a turbo roundabout.

Has the time come for a serious study of Gary Doer Blvd?  I think it has.  It seems silly to spend over half a billion dollars over the next decade on transportation in Northeast Winnipeg without having a complete solution in mind.

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Transcona resident and newly elected Elmwood MLA Bill Blaikie decided to make it clear that he thinks that the important issue of the Disraeli Freeway is something to make light of.

From Hansard:

I mean, if there ever was an ecumenical moment in northeast Winnipeg, it’s the way in which, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a federal, provincial, or municipal, whether you’re Conservative or New Democrat–I don’t believe we have any Liberals in northeast Winnipeg, which is a happy situation–but not wanting to transgress on the non-partisan nature of the debate, Mr. Speaker, we were all united, even those who were unelected, on the unacceptable nature of the 16-month closure that is part of the current plan the City has.

Blaikie then proceeds to speak at length without providing any actual information, and then takes another parting shot at those who dared to speak out against the NDP’s history of neglect in Northeast Winnipeg:

There was a temptation, certainly in the recent by-election, to “partisanize”–I don’t know if there’s such a word–the issue.

Of course, there was no mention in his speech about viable and cost-effective alternatives, such as the immediate twinning of the Louise Bridge with a temporary span, which was of course an idea brought forward by the Manitoba Liberals.  Just as with every other issue, including the outright theft of money from motorists driving under the regular posted limit inside unmarked and poorly marked construction zones, the NDP and Mr. Blaikie show their contempt for the voters of Manitoba.

Let’s keep the bridge open while it’s being repaired, either by, as I say, building a second span first or by finding a way to repair it and keep it open at the same time.

Obviously Mr. Blaikie’s non-partisan approach includes ignoring any ideas that might come from the non-existent Elmwood Liberals.  If I existed, I’d be pretty disgusted right now.

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So I was looking at the calendar and realized that I’ve been gone for a month, not just from this blog but from politics in general.

I was expecting that after a week or so of rest and quiet, I’d feel re-energized and ready to get back to work on Kelvin, Disraeli, and a few new battles that have appeared in the past few months.  But after a week, then two weeks, then even three and four weeks, I didn’t feel that burst of new energy.  In general, I’m still pretty tired.

I think I’ve been looking at this the wrong way.  I won’t feel energized by taking time away from the work; I need to get back to work to start feeling renewed.

From what I can see, nothing has been accomplished by the provincial government for the Elmwood constituency since the election.  (The flood isn’t a good enough reason for nothing to be happening.)  All of the talk about “solving” Disraeli has evaporated into that familiar NDP status quo.  Meanwhile, the province is still silent on the other issues, and completely unresponsive to the ongoing crisis in healthcare.

But if I had expected the NDP and Mr. Blaikie to actually solve problems in Elmwood, I wouldn’t have ran against them in the by-election.  So in the absence of leadership from the provincial NDP, it’s up to all of us to get to work on the issues that matter.

Here are my plans for the month of May; if anyone would like to help out, please let me know.  More people not only makes the work easier, it also makes it much more fun.

  1. Bring a hang-out night to Kelvin.  I don’t have details yet, but it would consist of one evening a week where we’d bring out whatever equipment we have, open up the long lost Kelvin canteen, and reconnect with all of the people who thought of Kelvin as their club.
  2. Put together a new Disraeli traffic plan that meets the needs of Elmwood, River East, and Point Douglas.  This plan will improve on some of the ideas I’ve mentioned here and on betterdisraeli.com and will be formally brought before the City of Winnipeg.
  3. Talk to Manitoba Housing about their complex on Watt Street near Chalmers, to see what it would take to get a playground installed.
  4. Continue to work with the city to find a proper use for the Kelvin frontage on Henderson.
  5. Get more details about the upcoming drop-in programs for summer, and see what assistance is needed to make them successful.

If anyone has information that can help me out on any of these, please e-mail me or post a comment.

And as an ongoing activity, I will of course remember to post about events in our city and province.  What kind of blog would this be if I didn’t do that?

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Here’s an interesting column from Kevin Engstrom: All talk, no substance

All talk, no substance

Doer’s sudden interest in Disraeli closure is a cynical attempt to woo voters

Attention, Elmwood residents: the premier is trying to fool you.

Last weekend at the NDP convention in Brandon, Gary Doer talked about northeast Winnipeg’s looming 16-month traffic nightmare that is the Disraeli Bridge closure.

He spoke as if it is an important issue personally to him, that he has a genuine desire to work with the city to come up with ideas to keep the bridge partially open to motorists during construction.

Of course, the fact Elmwood residents think it’s an important issue at a time when Doer’s best bearded buddy Bill Blaikie (try saying that five times quickly) is attempting to win a byelection there is pure coincidence.

Uh huh.

If you believe that, and Doer sure hopes you do, then you might also think the world is flat and the breasts of all SUNshine Girls are real.

We weren’t in Brandon last weekend, so we can’t say with certainty if the premier had his fingers crossed while saying all of this. However, for those who have been paying attention, Doer’s commitment to finding a solution to the coming chaos on the road appears only slightly more sincere than O.J. Simpson’s pledge to find the real killers.

Fact is, the premier has known about the Disraeli project for nearly two years. If he cared at all about the daily road rage coming Elmwood’s way, it stands to reason he would have done something about it by now.

After all, it’s not like he has an aversion to wading into city issues when he thinks it’s important (see overpass, Kenaston and Community Club, Southdale for examples).

But sources say the premier only spoke to Mayor Sam Katz about the bridge a few weeks ago, with no follow-up meeting scheduled (Blaikie, meanwhile has never met with the mayor on the issue).

If Doer really wanted to solve the problem, he’d throw some provincial money at it. That would allow the city to build two separate bridge spans, with one staying open to traffic for the duration of construction. Instead, Doer has already ruled out giving any new money to the city to allow that to happen.

To sum up, then, the premier wants to see something happen but waited almost two years to tell anyone about it and is unwilling to part with any money to ensure anyone listens. Gee, Gary, way to show the people of Elmwood you think this is important.

We strongly suspect the only reason the premier said anything at all about the Disraeli is to help Blaikie. The ex-MP’s efforts to get elected were obviously hindered by the NDP government’s lack of a position on the riding’s top issue, so Doer came up with one.

The fact the position his government has taken is devoid of any substance whatsoever is something he figures most Elmwood voters won’t realize until well after the election is over and they’re stuck in traffic.

Such a cynical move from the leader of this province is disappointing. Even more disappointing is the sinking suspicion we have it will probably work.

Like the voters in Elmwood, Mr. Engstrom recognizes that the Premier’s Disraeli “announcement” is simple more empty words from the NDP.  Of course, as someone who has been speaking to the people of Elmwood for some time now, I can tell that the NDP’s distraction is not going to work.

Until the NDP government is willing to put in its fair share for the Disraeli/Louise projects, it will be clear to the voters that the NDP still haven’t learned that Elmwood won’t be taken for granted any longer.

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I found an interesting blog post from Green Party of Manitoba Leader and Elmwood By-Election Parachute Candidate James Beddome that makes a claim that “One candidate campaigns on plans to spend an untenable amount of money to keep the bridge open”, which seems to infer that this is my campaign platform.  It’s obvious to me that Mr. Beddome never bothered to actually look at my platform, and felt it was more important to make public statements which are untrue.

Of course, that is very much the opposite of what the Green movement is about.  Speaking as someone who is well-acquainted with these values, I find it absolutely appalling that Mr. Beddome would feel that it is appropriate to lie about my position on Disraeli.  It is only proper for Mr. Beddome to apologize to me for his comments.

While my campaign material and my comments at the door have been tough on the NDP, I have always made sure that my facts are accurate.  That is an important part of leadership, and an important part of being the change that you would like to see in the world.

It has been said by some people that Mr. Blaikie is running on name recognition alone.  I know that Mr. Blaikie is working hard on this campaign, so I don’t believe that he’s simply relying on his fame to win.  However, I think that the Green Party of Manitoba is running on name recognition alone, rather than on any record of results for Elmwood.  I have spoken to voters who have the impression that they need to vote for the Green Party of Manitoba simply because they have concerns about the environment.  They are often surprised when I mention that the Manitoba Liberal Party has already taken the lead on environmental policy, and that our MLAs have been working to hold the NDP government to account for its failure to lead in this area.

Good government policy comes from representatives who engage all citizens and who work each day to get results.  The Manitoba Liberal Party is bringing the people of Elmwood together to find solutions for all of the challenges we face.  We are considering opinions and ideas from all sides of the political spectrum, because we know that good ideas aren’t about who came up with them.  It’s this inclusive mentality that will bring the results we need on healthcare, public safety, infrastructure, and yes, the environment.

Now I don’t expect that Mr. Beddome will issue a public apology for his careless statements about my position on Disraeli, but I certainly hope that he will be more careful in future.  There is no room in the governance of this province for politicians who are willing to distort reality for their own personal gain.

Oh, and Mr Beddome: I received an unjust speeding ticket on Lagimodiere Blvd (usually maximum 80 kph) by driving 76 kph in an unmarked construction zone where there were not only no workers present, but no construction equipment on the roadway.  My position is that construction zones must be properly marked and that there should be signage to clearly indicate when workers are present, as this improves safety.  Perhaps in future if you would like clarification you should contact me personally before resorting to these types of attacks.

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I’ve never really understood the phrase above, but I’m guessing that it fits here.

It has become clear over the past few months that the Disraeli bridge rehabilitation is a big issue for the 100,000 residents of Northeast Winnipeg.  It’s also clear that the NDP government has no plan to provide traffic relief for its citizens.

While the City of Winnipeg is attempting to have half of the Disraeli bridges (one lane each way) open during construction, some people I’ve spoken to who are involved with the project have mentioned that this plan is not as easy as we’d hope.

Most people know that there will be some periods of full closure, in part because there are some construction tasks (such as pouring concrete) that require that there be no traffic using any part of the single-span bridge.  What is not clear yet is how long these periods of full closure will last.  What is clear is that there needs to be a plan for reducing traffic gridlock when the Disraeli is completely shut down.

That’s where the Louise Bridge comes in: the plan I’ve been putting forward, with the support of Councillor Jeff Browaty, is for the Louise Bridge to be twinned immediately.  This requires funding from the province, but there’s federal infrastructure cash available, too.

The plan:

  1. Throw up a new two-lane span beside the existing Louise
  2. Perform Disraeli rehab
  3. Replace original two-lane Louise bridge with a second two-lane span.

But there’s an issue here: the city would like to realign both the Louise Bridge and Higgins Avenue, connecting Point Douglas to Nairn on the east side of Watt/Archibald.  This project involves significant property acquisition, brownfield mitigation (maybe not full clean-up yet), and some serious planning to get it right.  It will also take an estimated $100 million and more than one season to complete.

So the best plan for immediate traffic relief for the Northeast is not the plan the city wants long-term.  But there is a way to get the city everything it needs (but maybe doesn’t yet realize it wants):

Construct a temporary second span for the Louise Bridge.

As long as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans approves, we can add three temporary piers alongside the current bridge and assemble a prefabricated temporary bridge that is wide enough for two lanes of traffic.  Once the Disraeli is finished, the city can begin work on its ambitious Point Douglas realignment project.  After completion, the temporary bridge and its piers can be removed, and the original Louise can become a heritage active transportation bridge.

Incredibly preliminary cost estimates place the construction of a temporary Louise span between two and four million dollars.

So what stands in the way of this idea?  The Doer government needs to show its support for the people of Northeast Winnipeg by committing to funding the temporary bridge, and the city of Winnipeg needs to make a final decision on whether or not the Point Douglas realignment plan should go forward.

No matter what the city decides, it’s essential that the provincial government guarantee that there will always be a minimum of six bridge lanes open at all times between Main Street and Henderson, whether on the Redwood, the Disraeli, or the Louise.  We have eight bridge lanes open now, with almost 90,000 daily trips across them, and four bridge lanes (two at Redwood, two at Louise) are not enough.

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The Premier has stated that he prefers a Disraeli Freeway rehab plan that allows some of the bridge lanes to remain open.  Aside from the obvious fact that pretty much EVERYONE wants some of the lanes to remain open if possible, I think it’s clear that the Premier has no intention of showing leadership on this issue.

The best way to ensure that traffic flow is not severely impeded during construction is to include the twinning of the Louise Bridge as part of the Disraeli project, with a new Louise span built before any Disraeli closures take place.  This project enhancement would increase the capital costs starting in 2010 by approximately $5 million per year.

The city of Winnipeg cannot afford to combine the two bridge projects without significant cuts to its other capital commitments, and such cuts are unlikely.  The Doer government can add the Louise Bridge to the city’s Disraeli project by committing $4 million a year from 2010 until 2014, for a total contribution of $20 million*.

If the Premier is truly concerned for the economic and safety issues that will be created by a full Disraeli closure, he will agree to contribute funds for the Louise Bridge.  The 100,000 residents of Northeast Winnipeg deserve a guarantee from their Premier that we will have adequate transportation options during the Disraeli project.

* – The amount of $4 million is based on several possible plan alterations, including postponing the active transportation bridge and possibly delaying Disraeli construction until 2011 if safety permits.  There are quite a few options available to the city to increase its Disraeli expenditures by $1 million per year along with the provincial contribution.  This also assumes a Louise budget of $100 million for moving the bridge to the East, while a reconstruction at the current location would probably cost around $60 million.

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