Winnipeg's mayor says he would like to see the intersection of Portage and Main reopened by the summer of 2025. 

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.

"We have reached the point where the waterproof membrane needs to be replaced. It's a major undertaking." said Gillingham in a press conference Friday morning. "Repairing the membrane would require completely tearing up Portage and Main in sections over the course of four to five years, and cost $73 million and potentially higher."

Gillingham also noted that the membrane would need to be replaced again in 30-40 years. 

"I cannot support the status quo," said Gillingham. "I believe that for the benefit of commuters, residents and businesses, we need to pursue an alternative and open up Portage and Main to pedestrian crossings by the summer of 2025."

Gillingham pointed out that 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.

"Portage and Main was the third busiest intersection before the pandemic. It is now the sixth busiest in the city," said Gillingham. “It’s time to deal with Portage and Main 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.”

A draft motion to reopen Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic is in the works. Gillingham says he is working with Property & Development Chair Sherri Rollins to develop a plan that will coincide with the launch of the new transit route network, noting Portage and Main is a critical connection point in the new Transit Master Plan. 

Consultations will continue with property owners on the four corners, and plans are in place to prepare a formal cost estimate for permanently closing the underground concourse.

"This is a matter of timing, and now is the time to put this matter to bed once and for all."

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