Rising costs force changes in city's Chief Peguis plans
Residents fear trail's new design will end quiet neighbourhood
By: Joe Paraskevas
Updated: March 17, 2008 at 02:00 AM CDT
Residents of North Kildonan and people who attend a church there fear the latest plans for the proposed Chief Peguis Trail extension will signal an end to their quiet neighbourhood.
Rising infrastructure costs have forced the city to drastically alter the project, surprising residents of Douglas Avenue and Rothesay Street and members of the Douglas Mennonite Church.
Residents had been led to believe the major new road would sweep underneath Rothesay, but new plans now have Chief Peguis east from Henderson Highway to Lagimodiere Boulevard meeting Rothesay at a level, traffic-light-controlled intersection.
City sources say building an underpass as initially planned would cost millions of dollars more than had been expected.
The change is a huge cause of concern for residents in the area, many of whom will now find their homes behind a 3.6-metre-high concrete sound barrier as they also face increased traffic jams and pedestrian safety concerns.
Even to area residents who had known since they bought their homes that the Chief Peguis extension was on the drawing board at city hall, the design changes are disappointing.
"We bought the house knowing the freeway was coming, but not a barrier in our front yard and not a four-way (intersection), which I'm deeply concerned about because we have elementary school children and they'll be crossing six lanes of traffic," said one resident whose house will look onto the new road and who asked not to be identified.
"I'm not sure who would buy our house after we have such a thing to look out on," the resident added, referring to the concrete sound barrier.
An engineer with the city's public works department said the same number of houses would be hidden behind the barriers whether the city built an underpass or a level intersection. The same official admitted, however, that an underpass would have meant Chief Peguis would be built about five metres below the level of Rothesay, further buffering the sound.
Recently, the city held an open house at Douglas Mennonite. The city revealed plans for a level intersection as well as plans for the new road and it solicited feedback from the public.
The church is situated at what would be the corner of Rothesay and the Chief Peguis Trail. Under the new plan, the pulpit of the church will be less than a stone's throw from a major traffic-light intersection of double-lane roads.
More than 500 people attended the meeting at Douglas Mennonite Church and by Friday the city had received more than 250 replies to its survey and request for comments.
The city originally gave residents eight days to be heard, but it extended that deadline on the public works department web page to March 19.
"This is still in the preliminary design stage," said Neil Myska, streets planning engineer for the department of public works.
"So, that's the option that has been presented to the public to get comments," Myska added, referring to the level-crossing design. "Based on the comments that we get back, there can be a number of changes made to the plan. So, it's not set in stone yet. There's a possibility of change."
George Klassen, a spokesman for Douglas Mennonite's 500-member congregation on the new road plans, said the church would lose some of its property for a turning lane with a four-way intersection. Such a move could hamper the church's growth, he added.
"I really question the wisdom of (a level intersection)" said Klassen, a project manager for a Winnipeg construction company.
Don Rempel Boschman, the church's senior pastor, said traffic lights at Rothesay and Chief Peguis would lead to congestion, traffic noise and safety problems for children heading to three area schools.
"The design change changes a lot of things," Rempel Boschman said. "For our church, in summer and late spring you have your windows open on a Sunday morning. Right now it's very quiet, but suddenly our church windows will be open on a very, very busy intersection."
The first design of an underpass at Rothesay and Chief Peguis would almost double the cost of the entire extension project, increasing it by $40 million to $60 million, Myska said.
Asked if the city now rejected the possibility of an underpass, Myska was unsure. "I can't answer that, at this point," he said.
The proposed $64-million Chief Peguis Trail extension is one of the biggest infrastructure projects on the city's horizon.
It is scheduled to be completed by 2010.
North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty said the addition of land drainage pumps and other construction costs had pushed up the price of an underpass at Chief Peguis and Rothesay.
Civic officials made the decision to replace the underpass with traffic lights after a private company conducted a design study last year, said Browaty.
"It certainly is an inconvenience for the church," he added.
Final designs for Chief Peguis aren't slated to be ready until early 2009, Browaty added. Residents have until next Wednesday to submit feedback for the current design, he said. There is no hurry to submit feedback for the final design plans.
Chief Peguis Trail history
Chief Peguis Trail was identified as part of the city's Inner Ring Route in the 1968 Winnipeg Area Transportation study.
Phase 1 of the trail linking Main Street and Henderson Highway, including the Kildonan Settlers Bridge, opened in October 1990.
More than 26,000 daily trips are made over the bridge today. Springfield Road, a collector street, carried about 5,900 vehicles per day before the bridge opened. Now, it carries more than 18,000.
The Chief Peguis Trail extension is being planned with accompanying paved multi-use paths and a 200-space Transit Park Ride stop at Henderson Highway.
Plans call for the closure of Raleigh Street between Donwood Drive and Gilmore Avenue and between Algonquin Avenue and Knowles Avenue.
City council chose the Peguis project for a public-private partnership.