Selkirk’s historic Eveline Street is not only newly rebuilt in the downtown area, it’s also the 2023 winner of the Association of Consulting Engineers Companies (ACEC) of Manitoba’s Award of Excellence in Transportation.
Engineering consulting firm J.R. Cousins – who the city tagged for the Eveline project – submitted the project for the award.
“The awards are like the Manitoba engineering Oscars,” said Selkirk CAO Duane Nicol.
“We’re honoured that J.R. Cousins selected the Eveline Street reconstruction as their entry for the award. Of all the work they did in 2022, they chose this project as the one they wanted to submit, so that in itself is an indication of how proud they are of the work – it’s an example of their best work for the year. Congratulations to J.R. Cousins, and to city council for their vision, and staff for their commitment to always striving for the best for the city and its citizens.”
Matt Fisher, Senior Municipal Engineer with J.R. Cousins, said he “completely” agrees with Nicol’s comparison of the award to the Academy of Motion Picture’s iconic Oscar and he’s pumped that Eveline Street has been recognized in this way. And while the company, which has been around for about 40 years, has won ACEC awards before, this one breaks new ground.
“This is great for us because it’s our first award in transportation engineering,” Fisher said.
“A lot of the previous awards focused more on water treatment, wastewater treatment, that kind of thing, but we’d never won an award for transportation. That was (one of the) reasons why we wanted to showcase some of the innovative solutions that we used. “
Fisher said J.R. Cousins does about 100 projects per year, ranging from simple lot grading to more detailed water treatment plant and lagoon projects. They select one project per year to submit for the ACEC awards.
“This year we thought that the Eveline Street project was a really great project,” he said.
“It showed a transformation of a roadway that certainly needed improvement. As a management group we looked at all the projects and thought that this was an example of a transportation type project that had some innovative solutions to it and that was what ultimately helped us decide to proceed with it.”
Street transformed into a jewel of Selkirk’s downtown.
In what is the city’s largest ever single street rebuild, seven blocks of Eveline from Eaton to Queen were redone to bring them up to modern standards for accessibility while improving lighting, public safety and adding an active transportation pathway as well as other urban design best practices.
“J.R. Cousins along with HTFC Planning and Design, has done a fantastic job of translating our community vision on to paper and then into reality. This is all part of our strategic vision for a more vibrant downtown, developing of outdoor spaces and capitalizing on our tourism and retail potential,” said Selkirk Deputy Mayor, April Hourie.
“With these enhancements, the downtown has become an ideal place to live. For example, residents in the new MMF building currently under construction will be only meters away from a grocery store, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, financial institutions, restaurants, and more.”
Identified through the Capital Asset Management Program (CAMP) as being in poor shape, the city had a progressive vision for Eveline, and tasked J.R. Cousins with turning the vision into reality.
The $7.2 million project has transformed the riverside street and made it another jewel of Selkirk’s downtown. The desire to make the downtown – and the entire city – safer, more walkable and more climate resilient, fed into all decisions during the rebuild.
Making the road accessible and great for all citizens through innovation
Fisher said the city embraced the chance to be innovative and the use of silva cells – which store rainwater underground to water trees – is one of many examples.
“The vision of the City of Selkirk was extremely clear. They wanted to build a great downtown and they started with Manitoba Avenue, and this was an extension of that. They really wanted active transportation and accessibility to make sure the road was accessible and great for all citizens, and to really promote not just driving along the street but the use of sidewalks and the active transportation pathways. That was a really key focus,” Fisher said.
“It was also great to work with the city because they’re open to innovative solutions to problems. The silva cells is a great option…the city really pushed for ‘how can we make this more climate resilient’ and that is tying it into the land drainage sewer system.”
Fisher said that while some municipalities would look to cut construction costs by removing things like silva cell, ultimately that savings would be artificial and increase the long-term operating costs as the city would have to manually water the trees. The City’s Capital Asset Management program takes a more holistic look at costs and using life-cycling costing analysis to reduce capital, operating, and repair costs while at the same time achieving level of service targets.
Kaili Brown, Landscape Architect with HTFC Planning & Design, commended the city for its vision for Eveline and its commitment to a sustainable future.
“The City of Selkirk has set up its community for a successful future by consciously following through on its strategies. Its downtown renewal, climate change adaptation and active transportation strategies are a few of the initiatives that informed the reconstruction work on Eveline Street,” Brown said.
“This project not only creates a more accessible, brighter and equitable roadway for all users, it also restores the urban tree canopy which once lined Eveline Street. The way in which street trees are incorporated through the use of silva cells ensures an adequate amount of uncompacted growing medium below the pavement to give the trees optimal growing conditions. These cells also provide stormwater retention and use while increasing the tree’s longevity in a changing climate.”
Brown also applauded Selkirk’s desire to be more inclusive and provide opportunities for all to move about the city in the way they choose.
“Active transportation was an important aspect of this reconstruction. The design provides generous sidewalks along the west and a multi-use pathway on the east side of Eveline Street to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists,” Brown said.
“This formal connection on the east side between Selkirk’s lift bridge, waterfront, Marine Museum and Selkirk Park provides greater accessibility and opportunities to engage with these important community destinations as well as the surrounding residences and commercial businesses in a more inclusive way which was not possible previously.”
Prioritizing the existing urban canopy
Other innovative solutions included making a 100-year-old elm tree along the boulevard a priority in the design development and construction. Fisher says they soft dug the tree roots and collaborated with the city’s arborists and outside arborists to save the tree.
They also dealt with some below-grade issues in a way that ultimately makes the road stronger.
“We knew that we were dealing with some silty subgrade in the soil so we used an innovative geosynthetic material instead of a geotextile, which provides a little more strength for the subgrade,” Fisher said.
“The geosynthetic style allows you to reduce the amount of granular material you need to place on the road.”
Selkirk Coun. Lorie Fiddler says the street was in need of reconstruction and it made sense to make it more accessible, safer and more attractive.
“It’s part of our Strategic Plan to revitalize our downtown. All the planning and forethought has achieved the goals of accessibility, safety and aesthetically pleasing and Eveline is now an award-winning example of design,” Fiddler said.
“I’m in the childcare field and now that Eveline is more pedestrian friendly, we feel confident taking our kids for walks to connect to the outdoors and their community.”
The rebuild included the roadway as well as sidewalks and boulevards from Eaton Avenue all the way to Selkirk Park where the city’s first roundabout now exists.