Tuesday, October 25, 2005

CEC chair cuts ribbon on suburban road-widening

Yesterday, St. Vital Councillor and Chair of the City's Civic Environmental Committee Gord Steeves, officially opened a newly widened stretch of St. Annes Road south of Bishop Grandin. In a news release put out by City Hall, Steeves said this road widening will "significantly reduce the traffic congestion that has resulted from the rapid growth we’ve seen in south St. Vital.”

He is refering to, of course, the "rapid growth" that has resulted from the City's lack of environmental policies, and its encouragement of auto-dependant suburban development in South Winnipeg.

In the news release, Steeves' words were backed up by the 'science' of traffic engineers. Bill Larkin, Director of Public Works for the City, went so far as to say that this one kilometre stretch of road will "improve safety for motorists and pedestrians, as well as the aesthetics of the roadway." I don't know how allowing cars and trucks to travel at greater speeds will improve safety for motorists or pedestrians. As for aesthetics, well to me, a widened traffic artery is far less aesthetically pleasing than a narrow country road. But what do I know; I'm not a traffic engineer.

Steeves' excitement over this road widening in the suburban hinterlands reeks of irony, and acutely demonstrates this city's ingorance and inaction on environmental issues. As Chairperson of the Civic Environmental Committee, Steeves can talk a good game. He can run off some fuzzy platitudes of the City's commitment to blah blah blah, and try and promote environmentally and economically sustainable development with the best of 'em. But when he puts on his Councillor hat again, things change.

The encouragement of auto use, and of further suburban development around the wider artery (including along the nearby Seine River) is no way environmentally sustainable. Just as importantly, it is economically unsustainable. To twin this one kilometre stretch of road cost $3,000,000... Roughly the amount the City is proudly claiming to save on privatizing garbage collection. And as any motorist, transit user, or cyclist can tell you, $3M for roads in Winnipeg might be put to better use in more intensely used portions of streets within the centre of the city.

It all really starts to hit the fan when the suburban developers, who are attracted to new, wide roads like flies to you-know-what, build out around this new road, and the congestion grows greater as more residents use St. Annes to drive to work or play in "their downtown", or to buy a litre of milk at the Safeway on Fermor. When this happens, we can expect the Bill Larkins of the City to call for 'improvements to safety and aesthetics' on St. Annes all the way up to the Main Street Bridge and widen the road to eight lanes instead of six. And we can expect the Gord Steeves of the City to get behind this in spite of what would certainly strong opposition from residents of Norwood, St. Boniface, St. Vital. (This widening proposal will most likely occur as part of phase two of the Rapid Transit Task Forces' "Bus Rapid Transit" plan that will turn St. Annes into a "quality corridor".)

When that happens, we can all look forward to paying for many more $3M 'improvements' even further into the South.


Blogger AvE said...

Progress is sadly inevitable.

11:00 PM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think that will drive you some extra traffic?

4:02 AM  

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