Construction Update

Update May 10, 2024

We may have overestimated how quickly we could get everything in place to make a full start this past Monday.

After completing some traffic signal work at 18th Street today, we will be doing the traffic switchover on Monday morning May 13. We will be moving both directions of traffic onto the north side of the roadway from 20th Street to 7th Street and to the south side from 20th Street to Elm Street. One lane of traffic will be maintained in either direction at all times. This will allow us to start working on sidewalks/pathways/landscaping from 13th Street to 7th Street, while also starting roadway excavation at 20th Street working east, and start working on new land drainage sewer from 20th Street to Elm Street.

The intersection at 18th Street will remain open but initially, the other intersections from 20th to 13th will be closed. Access to businesses on the Avenue will be from the Crescent. We will be working on opening some of the intersections as soon as we are able to get them open safely.

There will be some growing pains and it may be slightly chaotic for the first couple of days, but Maple Leaf does a very good job of working out access solutions quickly and wants to ensure the job gets completed quickly with as little inconvenience as possible.

Update April 30, 2024

Welcome back to road construction season. After a fairly mild winter, construction season is set to make an early start this year. This will be the last year of construction for this major and transformational project that has been completely changing the look of Saskatchewan Avenue.

Maple Leaf is planning to start work on Saskatchewan Avenue next week on Monday, May 6. They will be closing the eastbound (south) lanes from 20th Street to 7th Street and working on sidewalks/pathway/landscaping from 13th Street to 7th Street and starting main roadway excavation from 20th Street working toward 13th Street. One lane of traffic in each direction will be placed on the westbound (south) side during this phase.

The intersections at 18th Street and 12th Street will remain open as well as access to all businesses. There may be some minor disruptions during the start of the project, but we will try to resolve any issues as quickly as possible as they arise.

About the Project

City Council is committed to making significant gains on revitalizing Saskatchewan Ave West. We have allocated the resources to properly plan for future infrastructure improvements such as paved parking, curbing and sidewalks and we look forward to working with our Provincial and Federal funding partners to ensure we achieve this major community improvement.

Phase One of the project began in the fall of 2021 and will relocate and renew utility infrastructure to the gravel shoulders along the avenue between 4th Street West and Elm Street. This work will be completed this spring
Saskatchewan Ave W Improvement Area

Phase two of this project will be completed between 2022 and 2024 and will involve rebuilding Saskatchewan Avenue West, including the paved avenue, sidewalks, bike paths, green space, parking spaces, and enhanced land drainage.

A public open house was held in the fall of 2021 to present the project to the public. The city also held online focus groups with property owners directly affected by the project.

No increase in property taxes is expected as a result of this project.  The City has been planning for this project for many years and has identified operating funds available from maturing debt and existing resources to service debt payments for this project over its term of 15 years.

1) What the is reason for the Roadway Redesign? 

The City of Portage la Prairie is developing and implementing roadway improvements along Saskatchewan Avenue West.  Upgrading Saskatchewan Avenue West to a modern design and current accessibility standards will make the street accessible for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians while providing a consistent and commercially vibrant pedestrian connection to the downtown. This project will also renew the underground City services such as land drainage, wastewater sewer, and watermains.

To achieve this, the project will occur in two phases:

Phase 1: Improvements to the Watermain and Wastewater Sewer Infrastructure (Spring 2022 – Spring 2023). This scope includes:

  • Replacement of the aging watermain and wastewater sewer infrastructure

Phase 2:  Upgrades to the Land Drainage Sewer System, Roadway, and Streetscape Improvements (Autumn 2022 – Autumn 2024). This scope includes:

  • An improved and safer roadway that will include a separation median and left turn lanes where required
  • Renewed roadway surfaces to improve drainage and rideability
  • Improved and new sidewalks and pedestrian crossings
  • Improved accessibility to accommodate people of all ages and abilities
  • Improved and environmentally friendly land drainage control
  • Safer vehicle parking
  • Dedicated and protected bicycle lanes
  • Improved energy efficient lighting
  • Community-enhancing, business-friendly streetscaping and gathering spaces
  • Improved greenspaces in the median and boulevard

2) Why change the parking from perpendicular to parallel?

To bring Saskatchewan Avenue West to modern roadway design and accessibility standards, the existing perpendicular parking will be re-organized to parallel parking. This change results in safer vehicular movements as parked vehicles will no longer be backing into on-coming traffic.  This parking re-organization continues the downtown parallel parking plan on Saskatchewan Avenue East while allowing the sidewalk and boulevards to widen for better pedestrian and cyclist connections. The space gained by re-organizing the parking also provides space for new street trees, soft landscape improvements and new pedestrian lighting.

3) What improvements are being made to the accessibility on Saskatchewan Avenue West?

Along the north side of Saskatchewan Avenue West will be a paved 3.0m (10’-0”) wide multi-use path connecting the Fisher Avenue active transportation path to 18th Street NW.  From 18th to 4th Street NW will be a continuous 1.8m (6’-0”) wide concrete sidewalk.

Along the south side of Saskatchewan Avenue West will be a 1.8m (6’-0”) wide continuous concrete sidewalk connecting Elm to 4th Street SW.

Once construction is complete Saskatchewan Avenue will have a continuous sidewalk connection from Elm Street to 10th Street East.

The dark, longitudinal paver band within the new concrete sidewalks will provide visual and tactile guidance along the path of travel.

To move safely and smoothly from the roadway to the sidewalk, curb ramps will be implemented. Curb ramps are sloped access points from the sidewalk down to the roadway and are included at all private approaches, pedestrian crossings, side streets, and major intersections for ease of accessibility. Yellow tactile warning tiles will be used inside the curb ramps at major intersections and side streets which serve as textural cues for pedestrians who are visually impaired. These tiles let users know when they are leaving the sidewalk and entering the roadway.

4) Why are bicycle lanes implemented on Saskatchewan Avenue West?

The redesign of Saskatchewan Avenue West to include 1.8m (6’-0”) wide protected bicycle lanes is part of the federal funding grant to improve the City’s multi-modal opportunities and offer climate change friendly alternatives to driving.

5) How will pedestrian lighting improve the street?

The roadway lighting renewal along Saskatchewan Avenue West is currently underway. The street will be lit by 45’ high overhead roadway lighting provided by Manitoba Hydro at regular intervals which greatly benefits traffic.

To create a comfortable pedestrian and cyclist experience, lighting levels are required to be human scale. The pedestrian scale lights selected for Saskatchewan Avenue West are energy-efficient LED fixtures, approximately 14’ above the ground. The fixtures distribute light to the sidewalk and bike lanes, minimizing conflict with the overhead roadway lighting and glare for drivers. This street lighting provides continuity in scale connecting Saskatchewan Avenue West with the downtown. Improved street lighting enables comfortable walkable and bikeable spaces, encourages alternative modes of transportation, and supports the street as a place and less of a thoroughfare.

6) How will green infrastructure benefit Portage la Prairie?

Green infrastructure is a necessary design component implemented in this project to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The bioswales are designed to capture stormwater run-off and slow down the process of releasing water into the stormwater system.  The capture allows the water-tolerant vegetation and engineered soil to filter and transpire the stormwater, reducing pollutants and sediment before reaching the new outfalls in Crescent Lake.

The renewed urban tree canopy improves air quality by reducing greenhouse gases. The canopy also provides significant cooling benefits by not only reducing the environmental temperature but also reducing the cooling demand on building surfaces to conserve energy.

Street trees and green infrastructure not only benefit environmental health, but they also enhance the aesthetic qualities of the street often increasing property values and marketability.

7) How will the urban tree canopy be improved?

To ensure greater biodiversity, three different species will be planted along Saskatchewan Avenue West:

  1. Discovery Japanese Elm: Ulmus davidiana japonica ‘Discovery’
  2. Silver Cloud Maple: Acer saccharinum ‘Silver Cloud’
  3. Delta Hackberry: Celtis occidentalis

These trees are better suited to the urban environment.  The elm is a variant that is less susceptible to Dutch elm disease (DED) than the typical American elm. Even with a mild risk of DED, elm trees remain the very best tree for urban streets.  The maple is rated well for cold hardiness, nicely fast growing and will provide a striking autumnal accent. The Delta Hackberry is a native species sourced from Delta, Manitoba.  Hackberry have been performing extremely well in urban conditions and we’re excited to feature this local tree on Saskatchewan Avenue.

Cottonwood trees are beautiful and have many desirable landscape characteristics. However, due to their massive size and ability to produce large amounts of cotton-like seeds, they aren’t a species that are well-suited to a streetscape.

Where new trees are located within the paver zone, Silva Cells are used below the surface to maintain sufficient soil volume. The Silva Cell system is designed to provide uncompacted soil beneath the pavement for the tree roots to expand resulting in healthier, happier urban trees.

8) 8th Street SW Intersection:

The engineering team has recommended that 8th Street SW become a one-way southbound street from Saskatchewan Avenue West to St. George Avenue. The new intersection design reduces the potential for north/south collisions and improves roadway definition while reducing pedestrian crossing distances and the number of intersection movements.  This change improves safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Why does 8th Street require a change?

The existing intersection at 8th Street and Saskatchewan Avenue West is an offset intersection, meaning the north and south sides of the street are not aligned. This offset alignment results in a wider intersection with poorly defined lanes. The problems which can occur are vehicles drifting from their lanes, vehicles not being in their proper location, and an increased potential for collisions.

How does it work?

The following diagrams illustrate how traffic will access 8th Street SW from all directions:

Why can’t we realign 8th Street?

For the City of Portage to correct the intersection and maintain the existing two-way traffic, one side of the street would need to be realigned. To do this, the City would need to obtain property and disrupt businesses or residents which can be a long, contentious, and expensive process that typically results in property owners/residents feeling unfairly treated.

To avoid this process and reduce the potential for collisions 8th Street SW will be converted to a one-way operation, between Saskatchewan Avenue West and St. George Avenue.

Click on each image to download a larger document.