Photo: University of Manitoba
The South Perimeter Highway, part of the four-lane divided thoroughfare that forms a ring road around the City of Winnipeg, Man., is slated for an upgrade that will cost billions and create thousands of jobs.
After a two-year-long study, the province has unveiled its blueprint for substantial work to be completed on the 50-kilometres of expressway officially known as Provincial Trunk Highway, or PTH 100.
A design study has been completed. It lays out how the works will proceed over the next two to three decades. Currently, four projects have been approved over the next two years with rough construction dates scheduled. Work on a service road has already started, and prep work on another will begin soon.
“Our government’s first priority is the safety of Manitobans on our roads, and we want to make the South Perimeter safer and easier to travel for the approximately 30,000 vehicles that drive it every day,” said Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler. “We’ve set out to do substantive work to address safety and operational problems.”
The thoroughfare was built in the 1950s and 1960s to bypass city centre rush hour traffic. PTH 100 is the Trans-Canada Highway’s official Winnipeg Bypass. The works will be done in two phases.
The initial phase entails improving the highway to accommodate traffic levels expected by 2048. The work consists of upgrading it from a four-lane divided freeway that consists of a mixture of interchanges and at-grade intersections, to a modern freeway. The highway access will be provided by service roads, ramps or loops, and interchanges with overpass structures.
The second phase involves expanding the road to a six-lane divided freeway, reconfiguring the existing highway, and constructing new interchanges where necessary.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Infrastructure said the purpose of the work is to improve safety and to continue to serve commuters, commerce, and trade. The design study involved public and stakeholder consultation, including discussions with municipalities, emergency service providers, and businesses.
Years in the Works
The upgrade has been in the works for years. In November 2017, WSP Canada Group Ltd. was hired by the province as an engineering consultant to provide a functional design study for the reconstruction of the highway.
The goal was to upgrade PTH 100 to a freeway standard with no at-grade crossings and intersecting roadways and to separate it from railways through interchanges and overpasses.
The province began an engagement process in 2018 to inform the public of the plans and present design options. It held nine public open houses between August 2018 and December 2019, during three design development phases.
“With the increased use of the highway over the past 30 years and growth in both south Winnipeg and communities south of the city, we required an updated report to address safety, operational and capacity deficiencies, and the general physical condition of the roadway,” said Schuler, referring to the previous analysis of the overall capacity and efficiency of PTH 100 done in 1988.
“The South Perimeter plays a significant economic role in transporting people, goods, and services, and we want to ensure the highway is safe, efficient, and progressive.”
This past June, crews started construction work on Brady Road service road, otherwise known as Ethan Boyer Way. Construction is expected to be underway by the end of the year on the West Perimeter Highway service road from Wilkes Avenue to Oakland Road.
Two projects have been approved for design and construction in the next year. In 2021, construction is expected to start on a service road at Aimes Road and Melnick Road as well as an interchange at St. Mary’s Road.
The cost of the project has not yet been determined. Neither the infrastructure minister nor the design study laid out the potential price tag or timeline. However, Schuler has said it would be in the billions of dollars.
“This is something we’re going to have to whittle away,” he told reporters. “We’re 1.2 million people in a province the size of two average European countries. So I think we do a really good job at what we do, however a several-billion-dollar project, I can’t put a timeline on that.”