Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New Highways for Winnipeg?

The dog park where William R. Clement Parkway dead ends above. Highway through it and all the way through Charleswood?

 The William R. Clement Parkway and future path through Charleswood.

The new road plan snuck in at last council meeting. From Cherenkov's blog

For a city that can't seem to get enough money to fix the crumbling infrastructure that already exists, it is able to somehow designate $300 million for capital spending that was not forecast to begin for 20 years in some cases.

The city and the province often jump the gun and pick and choose targets to fund based on politics. It is hard for councillors to see the benefit of working on things not in their constituency. This isn't news here or anywhere else but it does create future dysfunction.

There is one small segment of a rapid transit system in place. It was built because the federal government said use or lose it. You would think that future dollops of cash would be incentive to continue but federal/provincial money totalling $126 million was basically ignored and that money was spent elsewhere or not at all.

The city cries and cries for more money and they do have a case in that they lead a hand to mouth existence at the doorstep to the province. The fear is that the money given for transit won't be enough to cover the costs of buillding it.

And what about all those urban MLAs who are like just so many potted plants? It is within their domain to do something for the city in terms of its structure, taxation, schools and education and infrastructure. The often remain silent on critical things within their ridings.

It must be fairly amusing to MLAs who completely outnumber city councillors that they can blame the city for failures and take no responsibility for what is going on, nevermind accountability for it.

The plan of highway construction listed in the map above is a provincial and city push.

Over $200 million has already been spent on a superhighway for the CentrePort project just off the Perimeter Highway. It would appear various levels of government are banking on this having a big pay-off in jobs and growth and want to connect various highways to the site.

Maybe this project is good, maybe a pipedream. One thing is clear though is that it continues to stretch things out even past city limits. And the province keeps feeding the beast by allowing for more sleeper communities just outside city limits as well.

I will focus on one small aspect of the highway extension: The William R. Clement Parkway built in 2002. Originally called the Charleswood Parkway, it was a solution to the problem of the Moray Street/Charleswood bridge built in 1995. The traffic coming off the bridge dead-ended at Charleswood Golf Course and people roared down Haney Street. 

The golf course had been bought by the city back in the 1960s specifically for a highway. Now, I am not sure which part of the city designated the land as future bridge and future highway. Back then, it was St. James, RM of Charleswood and Metro Winnipeg. I suppose it doesn't matter. Suffice to say though that many people in the west of the city wondered when the promise of the bridge would be fulfilled when they had only two choices for crossing to the south: the St. James Bridge and Perimeter Highway.

As beloved as the golf course was, it was always part of long term planning that it was to be used for other purposes. Still, there was resistance and people unaware that this was on the books. Some thought they could stop the bridge and road to preserve Charleswood. Any why not? River Heights successfully successfully fought off long term plans for a bridge at Waverley Street and more traffic down to Fort Garry. Ever wonder why Waverley Street is wider than all the other streets in River Heights? It is because it was part of a planned bridge and road expansion.

The plan was never going to succeed with a mayor living on the street in the 1980s, To ensure that the bridge never happened, the land on Wellington Crescent was sold and a future city councillor's built his house there.

Charleswood had more supporters for a bridge and road than it had in opposition and so by 2002, the William R. Clement Parkway was built over the Charleswood Golf Course. It now dead ends at Grant Avenue. The next obstacle for further highway development is a much beloved dog park. That, and a strip of forest land behind Haney Street and a few other streets of Charleswood is all that stand to Wilkes Avenue and beyond.

The estimate for this and other projects are $300 million. Where is the money coming from in anyone's guess. Infrastructure like the St. James Bridge will fall into the water if they don't set a deadline for the work soon. And Kenaston is a disaster. Not to mention street after street in the city.

The city charged ahead with so many projects in the 1970s and 1980s that they ended up borrowing and paying high interest. The drastic cutbacks of the 1990s and recession created a much more reticent council on borrowing and spending. That might be changing with this new push for highway spending.

The problem the city has now is that there is so much infrastructure to maintain out there and still demand to build more. And the reluctance to build more public transit hurts efforts to build density along those routes and alternates for commuters.

The leadership for solving this insurmountable bill for infrasture is nowhere to be seen. What is worse is that the province is as keen on developing new highways and suburbs as the city is.

Trouble is looming ahead.


Anonymous said...

At least you're not calling them "freeways" like the Free Press does.

Anonymous said...

This isn't new. All part of Our Winnipeg including the Ridgewood development and even bigger future Southside Wilkes development.

Where do you get the money, remember that no strings funding formula , well, time to start discussing it or keep begging our parent for some cash.


cherenkov said...

The green dots and yellow squares on that map? They represent strategic planning areas in the OurWinnipeg planning document. I put those there to show that almost all of the road improvements lie BEYOND the strategic areas in the city. I have no idea how they justified this massive expediture.

John Dobbin said...

Cherenkov: Thanks. Your map showed just how much the province also plays a role in the future of this project.