Tuesday 29 May 2012

Confusion Corner redesigned and unconfused

The infamous Confusion Corner -- an intersection that makes you cut through a parking lot or down back lanes to get to where you want to go. The thriving and walkable Osborne Village comes to an abrupt end at this tangle of traffic, and the integration of the Rapid Transit station into the fabric of the community is all but impossible as long as it remains in it's current configuration.

In February the blogger at The Cold Cold Ground devised a new plan for Osborne's confusion corner; essentially a big round-about. Now you know I love my roundabouts, however there will still be a great deal of traffic flowing around this bout, and therefore it still presents a problem.

In the comments of ekim's post, I wrote

Excellent! I applaud your initiative in taking a crack at improving that area. It would be great if a number of people sketched out their designs, and had a brain-storming to work through the best aspects. And.. made city hall listen some how.
Well I thought I should put my crayons where my mouth is (yum) and take a crack at redesigning the intersection and unleashing the ultrawalkable-transit-oriented-urbanity of the Village.

Here's the nut of the problem: you have a great deal of traffic passing through the area, cutting off Osborne Village from anything south including the Rapid Transit station. Much, if not most of that traffic is going straight across from Donald to Pembina, or Pembina to Donald. Anyone wanting to get to or from the rapid transit station has to cross this traffic.

My solution is relatively simple: get rid of the traffic.

The "how" may seem far fetched to you, but keep in mind that cities do this all the time. Calgary is doing it as we speak. That is: build a tunnel. Get that Donald to Pembina traffic underground so that it can bypass the intersection without causing traffic jams, and creating an inhospitable environment for pedestrians. The details of getting it underground need to be worked out, but I envision an end result like this:

I need to rework the tunnel entry points, but the gist is that the outside lanes break off to feed Osborne St. and Corydon Ave, while everything else boots happily along underground. What used to be eastbound Donald St. would become a 2-way street and rebranded Corydon Ave up until the point that the traffic from Pembina rejoins it.

All you are left with at the former crazy corner is an ordinary four-way intersection: the corner of Corydon and Osborne. How iconic would that be? What used to be a big web of crisscrossing traffic could become the most in-demand restaurant and patio spot in the city. Two of the best urban neighbourhoods in Winnipeg would be linked through this intersection. The only traffic passing through would be traffic that wants to go down Corydon or Osborne. The impatient suburbanites racing home to Waverly West from downtown are nowhere to be seen.

Aside from the part about tunneling underground, this wouldn't be that hard to do. All of the roads are essentially in the same place. Donald is re-purposed as Corydon, and McMillan Ave is basically the same, only less fucked up. No buildings would have to be torn down except perhaps to allow for the off ramps where Pembina and Donald are fed underground. Meanwhile the wasteland south of McMillan would be much more accessible, opening up the possibility of true transit-oriented development around the RT depot.

Yes, this would cost money, but just this past month City Hall decided to go off-schedule and spend $300 million on new roads in parts of the city where people don't even live. If the brains at the City of Winnipeg were inclined to build a tunnel, they could build a tunnel. They just might have to delay the next phase of freeways in canola fields.

... the corner of Corydon and Osborne...imagine it!

And to finish off this blog post, here is a photo that I took in New York of what I think is the Holland Tunnel:


Anonymous said...

Tunnels are way to elegant a solution for this town. IMPOSSIBLE they'll say.

ekimsharpe said...

awesome, maybe the extra percentage point from the pst could help pay for it.
this would be a much better solution for the area. a roundabout still sucks for pedestrians, it just sucks less than what we've got now. putting the cars underground not only improves the neighbourhood for peds and cyclists, but it'll also speed up the drive on pembina/donald (it won't hurt osborne or corydon traffic either).
good work.

by the way, how great is that first comment? guerilla haiku comment writing!

Riverman said...

The largest percentage of the costs would be to move existing infrastructure such as water, sewer gas and the like. If the traffic could be temporarily re-routed somehow a "cut and cover" method of building a tunnel is much cheaper than tunneling.

Complications aside, think what burying the through traffic would do for the neighbourhood! For a good example of this, stroll down the Rose Kennedy Greenway between Boston's downtown and North End and imagine the elevated expressway (I-93) that used to be overhead. What a change burying the highway made to that neighbourhood.

John Dobbin said...

I like it. It certainly can make things both more car friendly, pedestrian friendly and the only things people might balk at is the cost.

Anonymous said...

It would be cheaper to demolish the buslane and rebuild it elsewhere.

cherenkov said...

Anon2: the location of the bus lane isn't the only problem. That intersection is still hostile to development (and commuting) and reduces the potential of the area.

Riverman: thanks for the Boston example. Good to hear about other places where something similar worked.

Anonymous said...

why isn't Osbourne the below grade / tunneled portion since it already underpasses the tracks and busway?

cherenkov said...

Anon: sorry for the delay. Your comment ended up in my spam folder for some reason.

To answer: because the traffic on Osborne is more suited to being above ground. The traffic on Pembina & Donald for the most part has no business in the area and is just trying to pass through as quickly as possible.

One Man Committee said...

Two thumbs up to this one. I'd much prefer this plan to extending the Chief Peguis Trail. If an expressway just has to be built, then this is the one I'd choose.

The only stipulation I'd insist on is that the streetfront lots along Osborne and Corydon be developed appropriately for an urban setting, with none of that crap that went up at Confusion Corner in the late 90s.

cherenkov said...

Agree. In a way you don't want to manhandle development too much, but there should be guidelines that would prevent Henderson Highway-type development in the area.

Anonymous said...

For those citing the Big Dig in Boston, keep in mind the eventual cost of that project is estimated to be approximately 22 BILLION dollars and finished almost 10 years behind schedule. Obviously this would smaller in scale but knowing how this town loves to mess up capital projects, you can bet the project would run at least 200% over budget. I don't see how Winnipeg could pull it off without destroying our finances for the next 40 years.

cherenkov said...

It won't be cheap, but neither is all the infrastructure we're building ostensibly for CentrePort. Might be worthwhile to price it out.

/* Google Tracker Code