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Wrong Way

The road to financial ruin

The City of Winnipeg just released its Strategic Planning Priorities for the next four years.

You can find them here! The two major budget items in this plan are the widening of Kenaston and the extension of the Chief Peguis Trail.We’re told these projects are going to be economic drivers for our city. Projects our future generations will be proud of! But, is that the case? 


Let’s find out!

These projects will improve trade! 

  • Only 4% of traffic on Kenaston is trucks (2018 Route 90 Improvement Study), the overwhelming majority of vehicles are single occupancy personal vehicles. 

  • With investment in CentrePort and the Perimeter Highway, and the move of the CN Intermodal Terminal to Symington Yards, Kenaston as a route for trade is no longer desirable or critical.

  • The small percentage of truck traffic on these routes is for destinations throughout the city. The best way to reduce congestion for these routes, as well as the entire city, is to reduce the drive-alone mode share. Winnipeg’s driving mode share is very high at over 80%. We need better transit and connected walking and biking infrastructure to make it easier for more Winnipeggers to use their personal vehicles less often. 

These projects will get people to jobs!

  • Because these investments prioritize personal vehicles - the most inefficient way of moving people in a city - the induced demand from this project will slow travel times.

  • Induced demand: When roadways are expanded to meet higher capacities of traffic, traffic volumes will rise and congestion will quickly return to similar levels (Planopedia: Clear, accessible definitions for common urban planning terms

  • The City of Winnipeg’s traffic data shows that commute times on Kenaston are currently 7 to 8 minutes during PEAK periods. With the expansion, the City predicts that traffic times will INCREASE to 8.2 to 9.2 minutes by 2041. 

  • Even with nothing done, the City predicts commute times will increase from 8.5 to 14 minutes. This is a difference of just 5 minutes. 

  • But doing nothing or spending hundreds of millions to widen Kenaston are not the only options available to the city, they are not even the only two options being considered and planned for. The Draft Transportation Master Plan currently under review is calling for a 50% sustainable mode share (transit, auto passenger, walking, and bike trips over a 24 hour period) by 2050. If this target is met, then traffic on Kenaston would fall, not increase, between now and 2050, even after allowing for an annual increase in the number of people, You can check out the numbers here.

  • While it might be logical to believe that traffic will increase as the city grows, it’s interesting to look at traffic data to see if that is the case. In fact, on the St James bridge in 1994, there were an average of 78,000 vehicles per day. Today there are an average of 79,000 vehicles per day. In 30 years, we’ve seen essentially no increase in traffic. This is because we have not INDUCED more traffic.

These projects will make enough money to fund housing, community and other initiatives!

  • We’ve been taught to believe that all growth is good. But, when we think about growth, we have to think about productive vs unproductive growth

  • Productive growth pays for itself over time, and generates enough revenue to cover the cost of its eventual replacement, with enough left over to help fund additional services. 

  • Unproductive growth does not even pay for itself, requiring the city to spread its operations budget thinner. We experience the consequences of unproductive growth at budget times, when “tough choices” have to be made about which programs are funded, whose community centre gets an upgrade and which doesn’t, and how many librarians will be cut, for example.

  • We need to ensure our growth is generating real wealth

  • Car-oriented growth is very expensive to build, and it does not pay for itself over time.

  • A cost-benefit analysis conducted for the City in 2012, and revised in 2017, showed the Kenaston widening would provide $125 million in economic benefits over 20 years, or just over $6 million per year. Meanwhile, the cost of construction is estimated at $550 million. When financing and additional operating and maintenance costs are factored in, the total jumps to nearly $1.2 Billion, or almost $39 million per year for 30 years.

  • The Kenaston widening has been rejected twice already for federal funding (Building Canada Fund, 2015 and National Trade Corridors Fund, 2018). 

  • Neither Kenaston nor Chief Pegius appeared in the five-year Provincial funding plan, released in March of 2023. The federal government indicated they were favouring projects of $50 million or less for future Trade Corridor investment, which is a fraction of the cost of both of these projects. 

  • The Chief Peguis Trail extension was ranked #29 on the City of Winnipeg’s infrastructure priorities list in 2019 due to its poor scoring on a “cost benefit point ratio.” Federal funding requires the benefits to exceed the costs. 

  • In conclusion, the increased social benefits we hope to pay for through more highway development are extremely unlikely. In reality, we can expect fewer available resources as our operational budgets continue to be spread thinner, resulting in the need for further cuts and tax increases.


Without a doubt, Kenaston is in rough shape and in need of repair. But, with the evidence before us, it is clear that we do not need massive highway projects. Just like the Marion Street road widening project was canceled in 2016 to reimagine its size and scope, we believe it is imperative for the City of Winnipeg to go back to the drawing board for these elements of the Strategic Planning Priorities. 


Developing projects in line with our mode shift goals, an understanding of induced demand, and a clear economic rationale, will ensure that the next generation does not inherit infrastructure that is unsustainable.


Let’s ensure our strategic plan is created with future generations in mind! 


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Learn More

We’ve linked to many studies and sources above, but you can gain more context around these projects by:

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