Reaction to reopening Portage and Main pouring in

The future reopening of Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic is getting a mixed reaction from residents, but one organization says the decision is long overdue.

On Thursday, council voted to officially reopen the iconic intersection to pedestrian traffic again after barriers went up in 1979. The intersection would reopen by the summer of 2025.

“Portage and Main is such a flagship intersection for this city,” said Rebecca Henderson, who is in favour of the opening. “The fact that we have it closed to pedestrians seems counterintuitive to the type of downtown that we ultimately want to see.”

However, another Winnipeg resident said she is worried about safety once pedestrians are crossing.

“Everybody is used to their regular routes, their distractions, their engagements on how they drive, and some might not realize the barricades aren’t there and they may not realize some human beings are crossing,” she said.

Barrier-Free Manitoba, who have been advocating for the intersection to reopen, were also pleased with the news.

“I hope that in the rush of opening up Portage and Main that they still take the time to do it properly, that they consult with individuals with lived experience with disabilities, that they can really envision a new way of crossing and making that space as iconic as they possibly can,” said spokesperson David Kron. “We want to change it from a 20 minute odyssey underground to a two minute crossing of the street.”

Speaking Thursday, Mayor Scott Gillingham said the public service has been tasked with exploring next steps for the underground concourse under Portage and Main – including issues of cost, public access and artwork. He said this will involve property owners and downtown stakeholders.

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