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Girding for traffic gridlock at IKEA

 The IKEA store opens Wednesday morning.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

The IKEA store opens Wednesday morning.

Winnipeg police are gearing up for the biggest retail opening in recent memory -- and not because they want door-crasher deals at IKEA.

When IKEA opens Wednesday morning, police will monitor all intersections surrounding the store and if necessary, officers will take over traffic control.

District 6 Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison said IKEA has hired 12 special-duty officers -- off-duty officers paid overtime rates -- to complement the regularly scheduled officers for traffic issues.

Dennison said the area's roads and traffic signals were designed to handle busy days, adding however no one knows what to expect on Wednesday.

"Some people are anticipating 10,000 to 20,000 will be shopping at IKEA," he said. "We'll find out if our streets and roads can handle that many people."

IKEA will open its parking lot at midnight for shoppers planning to line up before the morning opening. Dennison said he doesn't expect any traffic issues that early in the morning but regular officers will be monitoring the intersections and store roadway entrances.

The special-duty officers will start work at 6 a.m., Dennison said, and be on duty until IKEA closes that night.

Dennison said if heavy traffic overwhelms traffic signals and area roadways turn into parking lots, the officers will step in. "We'll monitor the situation to ensure the traffic signals can handle the flow... If at some point that's not the case, we'll have to help out and perform traffic duties."

There are fears IKEA's opening will worsen the gridlock that can clog Kenaston Boulevard during rush hour.

Area roadways have been upgraded, including a new mega-intersection at Kenaston Boulevard and Sterling Lyon Parkway, but the biggest concern is a bottleneck on Kenaston between Ness and Taylor avenues. The city wants to widen Kenaston to six lanes at this point, but can't proceed without a portion of the Kapyong Barracks land. Several First Nations say they are owed surplus federal land and were not properly consulted before Ottawa transferred most of Kapyong to Canada Lands, the Crown redevelopment firm.

Kenaston carries between 55,000 and 60,000 vehicles daily. A 2009 traffic study estimated the IKEA-led Seasons of Tuxedo will attract an additional 29,000 trips to the area on a typical weekday and an additional 36,600 new trips on an average Saturday by the time all phases of the retail development are completed in 2018.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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