Over 70 newly repaired Winnipeg sidewalks were initially not accessible to wheelchairs or the visually impaired

How does a mistake like this happen to ignore the needs of members of the community that have mobility and visual challenges

The City of Winnipeg is at it again with more costly street repairs that need to be redone. After redoing the cement of a backlane in the Wolseley neighbourhood just 48 hours ago, now all the downtown visually impaired crosswalks along Portage Ave also need to be redone. The majority of the yellow foot pads for the visually impaired which aid in crossing the street have all been placed at an inappropriate dangerous height which represents a major safety hazard. 

Winnipeg Taxpayers should not be on the hook for subpar repairs to their streets or public infrastructures. The downtown sidewalks are a disgrace and it is more than likely the taxpayers will also be asked to foot the bill for the mess on Portage Avenue. This is causing consternation in the visually impaired community in Winnipeg. MaryLou Bourgeois Chair of the Torch of Dignity for the organization, Manitobans for Human Rights said “this unfortunate incident was quite avoidable knowing that the sidewalks previous to the repairs, were constructed to be accessible to wheelchairs and the visually impaired. This is a costly mistake that should  have never happened.”

The yellow tactile walking surface indicators can cost upwards of $250 each, and that is not taking into account installation or additional materials. The new Federal Accessible Canada Act passed in June of 2019 by the federal Liberal government says that ensuring mobility for all Canadians is a Human Right. Much of the City of Winnipeg’s road work is being funded by federal dollars, thus needing to ensure compliance with the federal law. 

The Daily Scrum News counted a minimum of 68 sidewalks starting at the Portage and Memorial intersection all the way to Portage and Main where asphalt was poured after the concrete was set to make them accessible to wheelchairs and the visually impaired.

In one instance, the intersection at Vaughn and Portage is now arguably the most dangerous intersection on Portage for the visually and mobility impaired. The sidewalk connected to the middle meridian has been elevated without any clear access for wheelchairs to cross. The only option available for wheelchairs is going around the middle meridian sidewalk into oncoming traffic. 

In an email sent to Matt Allard, the city councillor who sits as the Chair of the Public Works Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal, we received the following out of office response, “I will be away from the office until Monday, August 31th. I will be checking messages occasionally. For urgent city issues, please contact Winnipeg 311. I will get back to you as soon as possible upon my return.”

We also reached out to the City of Winnipeg for comments and they indicated they are looking into our inquiry and hope to provide a response as soon as possible.

The cost of the initial repairs are said to be substantial and coupled with the additional overhead in materials and labour to construct asphalt accessible ramps are all pertinent information taxpayers need to know.

If the ramps are temporary, does this mean the city plans to rip up the newly poured sidewalks to fix the errors and if so at what cost? With this latest round of comical errors, maybe it’s time the city makes changes from the top down.

Statement received from the City of Winnipeg after the story was initially published. “The project includes concrete repairs to the existing concrete street, utility adjustments, curb repairs, sidewalk repairs, and the installation of new curb ramps with new detectable warning surfaces at all the street intersections. At this point in the project, the curb ramps are temporarily higher than the existing street surface in order to match the final level of the asphalt pavement once it is installed in the next two weeks. In the meantime, in order to make the site accessible and accommodate pedestrians during construction, temporary asphalt ramps have been installed as an interim measure until construction is completed as outlined in the Manual of Temporary Traffic.” https://winnipeg.ca/publicworks/transportation/pdf/2020-ManualOfTemporaryTrafficControl.pdf

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