It’s often said that Manitoba has just two seasons: winter — and construction.
The winter part certainly seems more true that ever this year, with lingering cold spells are in the forecast through the weekend and into next week.
Now, of course, spells of -20 C are nothing new for February (up here in Manitoba, we should be asking St. Patrick about whether we’ll get six more weeks of winter, not some New England groundhog).
But once spring is sprung, the long-term forecast calls for extensive construction.
You can read some of the details in the paper today, but put shortly, Victoria Avenue will be a mess.
That was kicked off last year, when the street was identified as the worst in Manitoba. The province, stung, swung into action with a promise to rebuild their bit over the next two years. Last summer, they managed from 18th Street to 34th Street (and a smooth job they did, too). This year, the province will push further west, with plans to repave from 50th Street to about Kemnay.
They’ll also push east of 18th Street, down Victoria Avenue all the way to First Street, where it become’s the city's responsibility (the city did some repaving last year from Douglas Street to 17th Street East).
Massive headaches are expected for drivers along this central artery, which is also Highway 1A, as provincial crew rip up and completely rebuilds it from First Street to 18th Street. Some one-way residential streets in the area will be temporarily converted to two-way streets. Access to Victoria is expected to be ... “impeded” is the polite term.
Not only will Victoria be repaved, but curbs and medians will be replaced as well. Drainage will be improved, hopefully eliminating the notorious flash-flood lakes that spring up during summer downpours. And additional intersection improvements are planned specifically for Sixth Street and 13th Street.
It is a case of temporary pain for long-term gain — and we think it will be worth it.
But, with tendering expected in April, there is still time to affect plans, so we have two suggestions for municipal and provincial planners.
First is to point out that Victoria Avenue is one of the areas identified as still having old lead service pipes. Although there aren’t a huge number of homes that face Victoria Avenue, they include some of the city’s oldest (and most handsome). It’s likely that their service pipes are lead.
With the road already dug up, the city is planning on replacing the water mains. That means now is the best time to also replace every one of the lead service pipes along that mile, at least to the property line. Homeowners should get a significant carrot to continue the work on their own property, so city council should accelerate the revision of its miserly cost-sharing offer for homeowners who want lead pipes replaced (which has so far attracted zero takers).
Otherwise, the city risks having to dig up small portions of Victoria Avenue next year, or the year after that, or whenever a single homeowner decides that it’s time to replace their particular pipe. Getting it done in one fell swoop will save time and money and aggravation.
Secondly, we suggest that the city take this opportunity to improve the tree canopy along Victoria from First to 18th.
It is, sadly, too often forgotten that those elms were originally planted in memory of First World War victims from the Brandon area.
As we mark the centennial of the beginning of that “Great War” this summer, it would be a singularly insensitive time to cut even more of them down.
Previous “intersection enhancements” have left just a single mature tree on the median anywhere between Sixth Street and 13th Street, plus a handful of saplings. There are barely half a dozen median trees on the whole mile that are anywhere near full height. There is no growth at all — not even a seedling — on the median from Seventh Street to 11th Street. That is, ironically, the stretch that passes the new veterans’ memorial.
As we have pointed out before in this space, an existing city policy requires that they replace every tree they cut down, but it's not clear if this also applies to the wielders of provincial chain saws. We wonder what happened to the trees between Seventh Street and 11th Street, and we propose that they be replaced this summer as near to there as possible.