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Winnipeg city council votes to reopen Portage and Main

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Portage and Main will reopen to pedestrians as early as next summer after Winnipeg’s city council voted in favour of a motion on Thursday.

Mayor Scott Gillingham pushed to open the iconic intersection for the first time since it closed in 1979, because of a $73 million price tag to fix a failing membrane protecting the underground concourse below.

During Thursday’s meeting, council voted 11-3 in favour of knocking down long-standing barricades to let people walk across the street. The reopening will coincide with the new Winnipeg Transit system.

Councillors Jason Schreyer, Ross Eadie and Russ Wyatt opposed the motion. Councillors Markus Chambers and John Orlikow were absent from the vote.

“The decision in my mind now is to choose the practical alternative, to open the intersection to pedestrian traffic,” Gillingham said earlier in the day.

The underground circus will be decommissioned as a result.

Disability advocates have long called for the intersection to reopen and others say it’s difficult to navigate the intersection on foot.

Thursday’s decision comes years after a 2018 plebiscite where a majority of people voted to keep the intersection closed.

Following the vote, Gillingham took to X (formally known as Twitter) saying “opening Portage and Main will benefit commuters, businesses, residents, and taxpayers. It will coincide with the launch of the new transit route network, making our city more accessible and efficient for everyone.”

The mayor says council has tasked the public service to explore next steps for the underground concourse – including issues of cost, public access and artwork. He said this will involve property owners and downtown stakeholders.

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