Saturday, January 30, 2010

University of Winnipeg Part 2

Leave it to Lloyd Axworthy. He seems to be able to shake major donors of cash by the ankles to cough up for major projects.

The latest money extracted from a donor comes from the Buhlers. The $4 million donated by them for the new building at the site of the United Army Navy Surplus location is the largest private donation in the university's history.

The Buhler Centre is the future location of the continuing education department and the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art.

Continuing Education has moved around the downtown multiple times, six at last count. This should finally give them the permanent home they deserve.

While all the building has been a good thing, I hope the university doesn't forget the need to keep programs running at a high level and watch for deficits in keeping the university running. Some of those deficits can be from not getting a handle on pensions, salaries and benefits.

Still, I don't want this post to be a downer. The University of Winnipeg has made an number of announcements in regards to expansion, programming and the like which deserve kudos.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Two Spans for Disraeli Freeway

The city is already warning that the costs could escalate from $195 million for the reconstruction of the Disraeli Freeway. Today it was announced that two spans would take the place of the old bridges.

West End Dumplings gave a good historical overview of Disraeli's past building problems. It may prove a bit of a shock that the crossings have been talked about since 1913.

The present spans were put in place by 1960 and paved in 1971. Since then the bridges have served the city well but they are getting old and a choke point for traffic.

The proposal that the provincial NDP government had a hand in shaping was reconstruction that caused very little disruption. Since there are NDP ridings north of the spans, it is easy to see that the government did not want a two year closure with an election going on.

The result of keeping the old spans while constructing news ones is a price that will be tens of millions more and there are already warnings that the costs could rise.

Construction will likely start in 2011 and will include a pedestrian and bicycle span using the old span's infrastructure. Completion might be some time in 2013.

I think the costs in this time of deficit is going to be a tough pill no matter how necessary the project. And if the costs soar past $200 million, I expect that there could be pushback from the electorate if taxes rise or cuts occur elsewhere.

And this is just one bridge project. Wait till the St. James Bridge project comes up.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Two-Way Streets

It is a discussion that needs to happen: The issue of converting one way streets to two way streets. West End Dumplings did an article on how Winnipeg started making the move to one way streets.

Winnipeg went the one way route in 1956. The downtown is now almost entirely one way streets now. From a traffic engineering perspective, the decision to this was based on speed and efficiently. I think we can say "mission accomplished."

However, the result seems to have been a mass exodus from the downtown. Speed of getting in and getting out has been the major consideration but never was the idea of vitality considered.

It is an idea worth considering. A few cities are beginning to reverse some of there one way streets to two way. The initial results are encouraging.

Vancouver, Washington according to businesses on their Main Street said the turnaround even in a recession was almost instantaneous. Minneapolis is now experimenting with the change on Hennepin Avenue and 1st Avenue. It remains to be seen if the same success occurs for the streets there as it did in Vancouver but the trend to making the change should be able to give a good indication about the benefits and detriments.

There has been talk about two way streets in Winnipeg but never seriously debated in council. It is likely to be a few years before it even registers.

I expect we will have to fight city planners all the way on making changes. Joseph Dumas, a professor at the University of Tennessee, argued a few years ago that...

...the primary purpose of roads is to move traffic efficiently and safely, not to encourage or discourage business or rebuild parts of town . . . . Streets are tools for traffic engineering.

That sort of thinking leads to empty downtowns.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010


I wonder how long the Black Rod will push the suicide angle before he pulls the story.

Shamattawa fire deaths may be linked to suicide

The second body found in a house destroyed by fire early Saturday morning on the Shamattawa Indian reserve will likely be identified as the mother of the missing 11-year-old boy who has already been named as the other victim.

RCMP and band residents know this but are apparently withholding the information because her death may be a suicide which preceded the fire, according to evidence provided in separate news stories from the community

There is certainly a tragic story here but the speculation without any evidence is hardly helpful.

The entire line of thinking regarding the daughter has been blown up by the RCMP indicating the second body in the house was an animal.

Several lines of investigation are needed in regards to this death but making up a story to suit a political agenda is not the way to go.

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Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Part 4

A couple of new developments in the last weeks in regards to the airport. The forecast is still that it will open in 2010 but I have not heard a drop dead date yet on when.

The demise of McNally Robinson at Polo Park has also put a damper on their plan for an outlet at the airport. The Winnipeg Airport Authority has still not made the change on their map though.

Interesting to note that in the departures area, there are two T.G.I. Friday's listed.

Just before New Year, the go ahead for the new shuttle from the airport to city hotels got the go ahead. Understandably, taxi drivers are not happy but it isn't like the service is going to kill them. The initial purchase for the shuttle runs is only three vans capable of holding 9 people.

Taxi drivers have said the shuttle will hurt their business but it is hard to sympathize when the sale of taxi licenses have shot through the roof in price. There is obviously some big money there somewhere.

The shuttle will help create a regular schedule for city hotels to have access to the airport. Some may drop their own shuttle vans in favour of the new service but with only three vans to start in the airport fleet, I wonder if some of the hotels will keep their vans on the road to ensure direct access to their hotel only.

For the most part the shuttle is convenience for out of town visitors to use. For many of the rest of us in the city who do not wish to leave a car in long term parking not rely on family and friends for a drop off, a taxi remains the top choice.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hudson Bay Company

The CBC was only one to report it.

I have not been in the store this year. I once worked in toys, records and books in the 1980s and it was a busy place on every floor.

If the story is true, it looks like The Bay was giving up even before Christmas. Can it be that we see a story in the next days that they are shuttering the whole place? Four floors?

We keep hearing that the owners are looking to unload some of the space to whoever will take it. I haven't heard a recent update on that matter but the writing seems to be on the wall.

Unlike the old Eaton's building, I don't think The Bay will face the wrecker but it is a large space to fill and it seems unlikely any retailer will be interested in anything except the first two floors and the basement if that.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I'm sure they announced it so that many people would not notice it just before Christmas but Manitoba's deficit is now around $600 million.

It is going to increasingly hard to ignore deficit numbers in the new year because they are not going to disappear unless the economy turns around and there is a serious increase in revenue. What is likely to add some salt to the wound is the possibility that the Feds will decrease transfer payments to help end their own deficits.

Rosann Wowchuk in her new job as head of Manitoba's finances will have to either consider cuts or a tax to help stem the shortfall.

It is possible that Greg Selinger might try and call and election to nip this all in the bud. He is probably not looking forward to delivering a budget that either increases the present deficit or that comes with new taxes or cuts. If at all possibly, the NDP government might try and obscure how bad things are, deliver a good news budget and then call a snap a election.

It is an idea that even the Harper Tories might consider for themselves.

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