Some of the answers to David's questions are below.
* * *
For those unfamiliar with the process behind public projects, I thought I might help give a little explanation on how projects work, from my layperson perspective:
Elected officials can both instigate and approve plans/goals suggested by the administration and/or pursue projects that are asked for by the community. Extensive grassroots involvement can help lay the foundation and build momentum, administrative studies can be done, and a political consensus can be developed. In this case, all of the above happened. This set the stage for something fantastic: vulnerable road users and pedestrians, seeking safety and enhanced ability to be environmentally conscious (or whatever), asked for much-deserved and long-awaited attention and got it.
Once priorities are determined, budget line items are identified well in advance and added to the capital budget. Some projects are added when opportunity (usually additional funding) arises. Preliminary assessments of each project are done to get rough cost estimates depending on the type of project (bike lanes are cheaper than new bike paths, downtown might be more important than the 'burbs, etc..) and the priority projects are identified. Within the context of the overall budget, a list of projects is chosen. If/when projects are determined to require public feedback, a budget is added for consultation. If not, they simply proceeed with construction.
Importantly, most road contruction, resurfacings, twininngs, overpasses - even some freeways - are built that way - no consultation, just straight construction. Some projects, like watermain replacements, are predetermined to be so "necessary" that they are never subject to input. Other projects, like retrofitting bike infrastructure in a city designed mainly for cars for the last 50 years, are flagged as needing extensive consultation in order to inform residents. Makes sense. Besides, active transportation is so approachable, that individual citizen feedback really is very helpful and makes a meaningful impact on the final design. Each of us has a useful idea to share, a design modification that makes sense, a concern to address, and a part to play.
Before engaging the public, the engineers/planners develop preliminary ideas to get an idea of what is possible. Local open houses are held, often twice for each project, so that the planners and engineers can gather input and feedback from the community, make modifications, etc.. Because of all the related projects, each open house acted as an advertisement for the next. There were approximately 2 dozen of these events held until June. People had plenty of time to get involved - and did. I am always impressed by the willingness of individuals to give up their free time / supper hour / soccer practice, etc.. to come out and have their say. Most never get involved, and I don't blame them. It's nice to simply live.
Openness and consensus is encouraged, but certain modifications are impossible within the context/goals of the project. Football stadiums don't become badminton courts, and freeways don't become bike paths (not usually, anyway). That means that not everyone's ideas and concerns are included - even though the engineers/planners try their best. All final designs require the final approval of an engineer: they must be stamped by someone who is responsible for adhering to safety standards, traffic flow standards and other tenents of their profession and who risks their career if they fail. Sometimes projects go back to the politicians for a final look see and approval (in this case, all of them did). Then, the engineers spend hours and hours on AutoCAD creating the construction drawings, (the sometimes difficult to decipher drawings you see below). These get tendered, the city evaluates the companies based on their price/ability to get the job done, the winning company, or the city itself, builds it, we all enjoy it, etc..
With regards to timelines, each of these projects has been a 3-6 year project - some dating back to the first official Active Transportation Study which was submitted in 2004, and approved in 2006, others dating back to grassroots project development in 2006-2007 (Bike to the Future, WTA, One Green City, RENN-TC, WC3, etc..). The big push came this year, when cycling, walking, wheeling and accessibility were recognized as a priority for a city burdened by traffic congestion, a province burdened by healthcare costs, and a country facing a need to wean itself off carbon.
We have proven that it is possible to transform a city and that active transportation infrastructure simply needs willpower in order to happen. We have proven that promoting cycling and walking and wheeling is important. After all, we are all one of these at various times. For example, there are no "cyclists". Being a "cyclist", is no more an ideology than being a pedestrian, it is simply something one does.
* * *
For the record, the amount of effort (and money) spent on consultation was tremendous on these projects, despite what has been alluded in the paper. I have been honoured and humbled by the work ethic and dedication of the dozens of engineering companies, planners, city departments, volunteers, designers, working on this $20 Million project, and inspired by the thoughtful input from Winnipeggers. The amount of mail drops, open houses, stakeholder meetings, big federal billboards, planning sessions, newspaper ads, shopping mall displays, cycling maps, etc.. that have been produced and distributed is staggering. I know for a fact that there were alot of late nights, overtime hours, emergency meetings, head-scratching, phone calls, redesigns, etc.. One project, for example, had more than 3000 letters mailed out and has so far taken 3 years to plan and build. There are 36 of these projects happening this year. Do the math.
For projects of their size, the amount of consultation and opinion gathering on each one was unprecedented. The openness and helpfulness of the engineers - esp. for those who engaged in the process - was inspiring. No design ever pleases 100% of the people, including me and you. With patience, even folks with doubts will see that, at the end of the day, the planners and engineers were very considerate and skilled. Key connections will need to be made, but, in the meantime, we will see considerable improvement. The ability of the citizens and professionals of Winnipeg to bandy together to implement this stuff with the least disruption possible without sacrificing the safety of the target users (pedestrians and cyclists) and without going over budget is impressive. Spring of 2011, in particular, will be a special season in Winnipeg.
Unfortunately, one lawsuit makes the news but one safely completed family trip to the grocery store by bicycle does not.
* * *
Now that that's off my chest:
Here is the RFP for silver, with links to the construction drawings. I think someone from WC3 posted this a long time ago. Here it is again:
Looks like Sherbrook and St.Matthews were tendered together. ... and that the bid is closed, but not yet awarded.
Haven't had the chance to look at these yet. Thanks for asking . . .
Here are the storyboards for St.Matthews from the open houses:
Here are all the construction drawings:
Pretty neat! check out the curb bump outs at Westminster and Sara. There's also the new loading zone north of Ellice.
This will be a vast improvement for pedestrians crossing the road here, especially the elderly / those with mobility impairments.
Here's some traffic calming circles on St.Matthews:
..and an interesting treatment at Beverly:
For those interested in dollars and cents, here's what various companies figured it would cost to build.
All of the tenders for all of the projects the city undertakes, from bike paths to tree pruning, can be accessed here:
The creation of permanent east-west and north-south cycling infrastructure spines in the West End, from Polo Park to Sherbrook, from the Assiniboine River to the Health Science Centre, all for the cost of one bus ride for 1/8 of the population: Priceless.
Hope this is useful,
Coordinator, One Green City