New City report outlines 5 years of construction delays, $73 million to repair Portage & Main underground

Released: March 1, 2024 at 9:53 a.m.
Gillingham: “It’s time to deal with the Portage and Main issue once and for all”

Responding to a new city report on the traffic impact and cost of repairing the Portage and Main underground, Mayor Scott Gillingham said today the intersection should re-open to pedestrian traffic to save commuters from a half-decade of traffic delays.

The report indicates repairing the underground – including replacing the waterproof membrane and ensuring the space is accessible for all users – would result in four to five years of construction-related traffic delays, and cost more than $73 million.

“Tearing Portage and Main apart would create traffic chaos for nearly half a decade, and cost at least $73 million,” said Gillingham. “And then we’d need to do it all over again in 30-40 years. I don’t think that’s the right choice for commuters, taxpayers or downtown residents.”

Gillingham pointed out the construction timeline and cost for the membrane replacement were not known at the time of the 2018 Portage and Main plebiscite, nor during the 2022 civic election. He also noted the pandemic has permanently altered commuting patterns, resulting in lower traffic volumes through the intersection and less intense rush hour traffic. And the underground is not currently accessible 24 hours per day.

“This issue has consumed so much time and energy over the years, but it’s just an intersection,” he said. “It’s time to deal with Portage and Main once and for all, and move on to more important issues like improving traffic flow throughout the rest of the city, redesigning our new transit network, and investing in new recreation facilities in growing neighbourhoods.”

Gillingham will work with Property & Development Chair Sherri Rollins to draft a motion that calls for Portage and Main to be reopened to pedestrian traffic by the summer of 2025, to coincide with the launch of the new transit route network. The intersection is a critical connection point in the new Transit Master Plan. The Public Service will also be asked to consult with property owners on the four corners and prepare a formal cost estimate for permanently closing the underground.

The report on Portage and Main goes to the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development on March 7, 2024.

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