Portage and Main Roundabout

Brian Bowman recently made a pledge to tear down the barriers at Portage and Main and reopen the iconic intersection to pedestrians if elected Mayor of Winnipeg. It’s an idea that has been gaining momentum as the long term agreement that shut off the intersection to non-motorized people nears its end.

I fully support opening up Portage and Main to pedestrians, but removing the barriers also provides an opportunity to rethink the whole intersection and potentially create something that is not only efficient but eye-grabbing and unique.

I recall sitting on some steps outside the Fira de Barcelona building adjacent to Plaça Espanya in Barcelona, watching the traffic flow in, around, and out of the giant roundabout. At the same time pedestrians made their way around, crossing the streets at crosswalks controlled by traffic lights. It looked confusing at first, but in reality it was very orderly and seamless. I thought to myself: why can’t we do that in Canada, or even in Winnipeg? The naysayers will argue that Winnipeg drivers won’t be able to understand how it works, but other smaller roundabouts have worked very well in this city, and I refuse to believe that Winnipeggers are inherently dumber than Spaniards or residents of any of the numerous cities around the world that have larger urban roundabouts.

I have mulled over the idea of a roundabout at Portage and Main before, but never took a serious look at it until now. My fear was that there wasn’t enough room for that type of intersection. There isn’t much space between some of the existing streets and the buildings that surround the intersection. How could a roundabout fit? I gave up on it for a while, but after the idea popped up on twitter the other night I decided to re-examine the concept.

P&M googleP&M outlines1

There are numerous PDF documents with design guidelines for roundabouts on the internet. I scanned through a few of these, and came to the conclusion that a three lane roundabout would work for Portage and Main, given the traffic volumes (up to 52,000 cars per day on Main Street, combined north and south flow). A three lane circle with 62m outside diameter would fit pretty neatly in the available space, and would allow for decent traffic flow with speeds through the intersection of up to 20 mph (32 km/h) which I think is reasonable.

P&M circles

In addition, we can remove a few of the lanes from the approaching roads. Why? Because you don’t need separate sets of lanes for turning left, right, or going straight. Everybody is turning the same direction. You only need sufficient lanes to handle the volume of traffic. You can also have “slip lanes” that allow right-turning traffic to avoid the circle altogether.

Factoring this in, the proposed intersection might look something like this:

P&M newMaybe this will work well for cars, but what about pedestrians? After all, the proposal to open up the intersection to pedestrians is what got this started. Well, pedestrians count too. While Plaça Espanya is not the pinnacle of Barcelona walkability, I mentioned earlier that pedestrians handled it just fine.

Crosswalks, protected by traffic lights, allow walkers to cross over each set of lanes. One of the keys, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation, is to have splitter islands at least 6′ wide. Since we have reduced the number of lanes, we can do this very easily. The result is safe passage of pedestrians from one side to the other.

Finally, we need something in the middle of the roundabout! It could be a fountain. It could be an abstract commissioned sculpture that nobody gets. It could be a statue of William Stephenson. Or … it could be this:

volunteermonument1Tucked away in the Steinkopf Gardens between the Centennial Concert Hall and the Manitoba Museum, the Volunteer Monument is out of sight and does not get the attention it deserves. The center of the Portage and Main would be the perfect place for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Portage and Main of the future:

P&M new w detail

43 thoughts on “Portage and Main Roundabout

      • Dartmouth, Nova Scotia had a roundabout called the MicMac Rotary which was a complete failure and caused accidents. I lived there and it was scary to drive on that rotary. It eventually was removed and traffic has flowed smoothly now. Roundabouts are dangerous and why remove extra lanes on Portage and Main and install some useless distracting monument in the centre? Typical of Winnipeg-nothing but brain farts coming from City Hall, the dumb idea from the man re the roundabout and Brian Bowman. Don’t open Portage and Main and in time build an overpass walkway protected from the elements and damn the BRT which is not needed but the money is needed for roads and mark with white lanes all the directions etc. on Portage and Main instead of people having to look up to the overhead directional signs. Look how the States mark their roads and Winnipeg should be ashamed.

  1. Pedestrians and Roundabouts don’t work well together. You have now introduced another problem to North American drivers with this hybrid. You will have to do better on the safety and flow issue with this plan. As it stands now, pedestrians are 100% safe going through the tunnels ( and then there is that godawful winter wind ) Back to the drawering board.

      • You will OF COURSE scoff at this being you like to spend others money, but put it in if ONLY funded by non-tax deductable donations by home owners only. Business may not contribute, no fund raising events, and NONE of the three levels of government may come to the table. It MUST also pass a public referendium.
        Winnipeg is NOT a commune, it is an INDIAN WELFARE RESERVATION. At least downtown certainly is…
        The main street intersection is good road, and needs no repairs, where other roads are BEGGING for repairs like the polopark minefields. Let’s stop trying to be somewhere else. We are not europe.
        What the hell is wrong with you River Heights hippies, you just can’t stop spending other peoples money on stupid shit.
        You’re old, so you’ll all soon be dead or in homes shitting your diapers and we’ll finally be free of your LSD ways !!

    • I don’t get why pedestrian safety is in question whenever we talk about opening up the intersection. How about all the other intersections downtown?

      • The intersection is open, just not to pedestrians. Their safety and how they cross is an issue.

        As for an inventive solution – why fix what ain’t broken.

    • If Mr. Bowman wants pedestrians to cross at P & M, the use elevated walkways, like the one on Disrali, and keep the underground. Opening the barricades would create a logjam of epic proportion. Yes it was open long ago but traffic volumes and patterns have changed. The traffic circle, 3 lanes, would be a God send for tow companies and body shops and our MPI rates would sky rocket in the 1st 6 months. Edmonton and Saskatoon had 2 lane circles that weren’t bad but 3! during winter ??????

      • Classic:

        1 in 5 don’t wash after, you know….
        “Got some change ???”
        Yah, we need some change !!!

  2. Really interesting idea. If the crosswalks go to the island in the middle you could have a very interesting public space there, and would also make diagonal crossing of the intersection possible.

    I’ve often thought about a similar but even larger proposal for a roundabout at Confusion Corner with something cool and good for the neighbourhood in the middle.

    • Leave Portage and Main as is because the roads throughout the city need repairs and replacements. No more tax dollars from my pocket because the well is dry with all of us except the useless politicians.

  3. This would work. NYC has Columbus Circle,, and this looks almost identical. There are lights that stagger the entry to the circle and allow for pedestrian crossing. The centre is a great place to stop and hangout,, with a statue of Christopher Columbus.

  4. Adding pedestrian access to the middle via a Hunger Games-style circle of individual risers might win over the naysayers.

    • Leave everything the way it is as it functions quite well. My pockets are empty-no more money to the NDP and City Hall. Before long we will be no different than Detroit with the idiots controlling this City and Province.

  5. The drawing doesn’t show any bike lanes. Just imagine this 3 lane circle with bike lanes and Spring freeze/thaw slush and ruts.

    • They could put a restaurant in the middle like our penis bridge is endowed with.
      And it could rotate like the one behind the Fort Garry Hotel.
      And we could have begger stations situated around the circle for the “Feral’s” to collect change from passing motorist.
      Bike lanes, that’s a good one !!

  6. Shit, Winnipegers still can’t use a “Calming Circle” properly. I can imagine idiots caught in a roundabout like National Lampoons European Vacation…. Look Kids… The Richardson Building….. Look Kids…. The Richardson Building!

  7. Pingback: Portage and Main Roundabout | NewsWinnipeg.NetNewsWinnipeg.Net

  8. I have yet to use a round about with other traffic where someone didn’t make a complete stop unnecessarily or go zipping right through and cut me off. Winnipeggers have a ton to learn about roundabouts before we step up our game with them!

  9. I think the pedestrian crosswalks would ruin the whole flow of traffic, constantly making the traffic stop time and time again.

    • It wouldn’t be cosswalks that go off soon as the button is pressed. It would be set to a traffic light that won’t turn red for 5 or 7 mins or so after even if someone pushes the button.

  10. Imagine Winnipeg in winter. Darkness. Icy roads. Some politicians became politicians because they couldn’t run a lemonaide stand in the private sector.

    • See above – No bike lanes and more important, roundabouts are designed based on traffic volume, If you think Portage and Main has alot of traffic, then the circle has to get much bigger. There isn’t enough space to accommodate the volumes of traffic that intersection sees at its peak times. Its not only about width of lanes, or how many you can shoehorn on a piece of paper, its about how much time you travel in order to flow properly from all corners..Imagine 100 to 200 cars in the roundabout , see what I mean, it gets cluttered very quickly. And clutter leads to stops, which basically shuts the whole thing down.

  11. So, we’ll take out traffic lights, spend a butt load to put in a round about that will have traffic lights installed.
    First world problem.
    No wonder were broke.
    Shame on you.

  12. Interesting idea, but I worry it would still be difficult for pedestrians to cross. Would be possible to encourage more people to turn at different intersections, eg. left at Smith to go north on Main, or take Broadway instead of Portage, so that congestion at Portage and Main could be reduced? Then it could be just a regular intersection with stop lights and ped crossings.

  13. Traffic circles kick ass, and this is the best idea I’ve heard in a while. Unfortunately there are too many shitty drivers in this city that don’t have a clue how to use them. Sometimes I wonder if people get their drivers license out of a box of cereal. Either way, the barricades need to come down, and the underground walkway needs a complete redesign. It is a very scary place, and one time I got robbed for my jacket at knife point in those tunnels. Clean up this mess that is portage and main.

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