For the second time this year the city’s new Eveline Street has received high praise and an impressive award.
The reconstruction of seven blocks of the street in the downtown area has won the 2023 Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Small Municipalities Achievement Award. The other finalists up for the prestigious award were the City of North Vancouver and Kamloops.
The first award Eveline won was for J.R. Cousins Engineering consulting firm who claimed the 2023 Association of Consulting Engineers Companies of Manitoba Award of Excellence in Transportation.
Mayor Larry Johannson said the recognition speaks to the commitment and dedication of city staff, who always see the big picture and want the best possible for Selkirk and its citizens and visitors to the city.
“I offer a big pat on the back to everyone involved in the reconstruction of Eveline Street. This is a national award, and though it says small municipalities in its title, the competitors we were up against are by no means small, so the fact that our little City of Selkirk can compete in the company of relative giants is just incredible,” Johannson said.
“I applaud council for its vision as well. It shows we don’t limit our goals for the city, we believe we can have a downtown that is inviting and exciting and encourages you to walk and ride your bike. We want all the amenities that you would find in any forward-thinking community, and when we do a job, we do it right. Our staff are built for that, and they care about this city in a way that puts us on the map as a place that people want to live and a place that people want to come to. I’m more than proud.”
Transforming downtown into a pedestrian-safe and accessible place people want to be
The project was identified through the city’s Capital Asset Management Program (CAMP) that showed segments of the street were in poor and very poor condition and in need of full reconstruction. The city engaged citizens and stakeholders in 2021and their input went into the construction that took place in 2022.
The objectives of the project included continuing the transformation of the city’s downtown – which began on Manitoba Avenue East in 2020 – into a place where people want to be. The new Eveline needed to be safer for both motorists and pedestrians and it needed to be inviting for residents, visitors and provide an improvement for businesses.
Coun. John Buffie admits he had some reservations about the plans for Eveline at first but came around and is glad he did.
“I really needed to think this one through simply because there are significant changes that were made and I had to wrap my head around them,” Buffie said.
“But we know it’s happening, more people are walking and riding bikes and our Community Strategic Plan is committed to active transportation and this new design feeds into that. This was the right decision for the city and now that it’s moved from the abstract to reality, I think people will agree it was the right way to go.”
The people that set the standards say that Eveline is the gold standard
CAO Duane Nicol says the magnitude of receiving a TAC award can’t be understated.
“The Transportation Association of Canada is the agency that puts out the standards for designing and building roads,” Nicol said.
“We often refer to the TAC manual, it’s their manual and they are the purveyors of the standard for road design. So the people that set the standards say that we are the gold standard this year for this project. It’s impressive.”
In its submission to TAC, the city detailed the project’s key design outcomes – accessibility and design, climate adaptation, active transportation (AT) pathways, safer roadways, green urban canopy and renewed core infrastructure along with innovative solutions that found their way into the design and how certain aspects of the project could transfer to other projects.
There was a passion that went into the reconstruction, and it’s perhaps best espoused by the city’s Director of Operations Dan McDermid, who clearly understood the magnitude of the job at hand.
“I was thinking about this the other day and it’s more than just a street. The street is the start, but it’s bigger than just one street, right?” McDermid said.
“It’s the whole downtown development. It’s getting people into the downtown areas. It’s moving people from commercial zones to recreational zones. It’s all those things and I think that’s why it won the award.”
Nicol agreed and said the city has evolved in the way it does asset management, including street work.
“Streets don’t have a singular purpose anymore, they’re not just thoroughfares for vehicles, they’re about connecting people to their community,” Nicol said.
“The city has embraced the concept of adjusting the level of service to enhance service to pedestrians and cyclists and other forms of transportation.”
Integrated Climate Change Adaptation and Active Transportation Strategies drew attention
Credit can be shared amongst many who played a role in the project Nicol said, but he also offered up a big thank you to Steven Florko, Transportation Engineer at MORR Transportation Consulting and the Past President of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Manitoba Section.
Florko, in his latter role, invited Nicol to speak at a meeting of the organization’s members last year about the Eveline Street project. He was intrigued by the way the city had incorporated its Climate Change and Active Transportation strategies into the design as well as the city’s concern for public safety.
Following Nicol’s presentation, it was Florko who suggested the city apply for the TAC Award.
“If it wasn’t for that suggestion, we probably wouldn’t be talking about this today,” Nicol said.
“So I appreciated the opportunity to speak at the meeting and I am certainly glad we followed through on the suggestion to submit to TAC.”
For Florko, the street’s design and the city’s commitment to continual growth and improvement is worthy of the TAC award.
“Cities have always been places of social and economic exchange, and streets have played a key role in facilitating that exchange. In the 20th century street design in North America largely neglected that role, instead focusing on making streets more and more convenient for driving,” Florko said.
“The design for Eveline Street is at the same time forward looking and a return to the older, more holistic tradition where streets make the City a better place to live and do business, and not just drive through. I’m glad to see this street get the recognition it deserves.”
Selkirk leader in small city development, innovation and industry
Randy Pitz, President of the Manitoba Chapter of Canadian Public Works Association, says the Eveline Street reconstruction is indicative of Selkirk’s top-notch staff and the city’s reputation as a leader in small city development, in innovation and in industry.
“The TAC award is very impressive. I think the recognition helps the city stand out,” Pitz said.
“It brings highlight to not only the work that your public works professionals are doing and the investment the city is making, but it also helps market the city and makes it a place people want to move to. Going through rural Manitoba, and I’m from rural Manitoba, I think all these small towns need to do something unique that makes them stand out and makes people want to come and visit and maybe even live there.”
He says the city is known as an innovative place and it demonstrates that through strong asset management, its climate change and Greenhouse Gas reduction initiatives including a move to electric vehicles and in the way the city communicates with its citizens.
“How the city explains infrastructure development, which was part of that project, and explaining to the residents why you’re doing it and where the money’s coming from, that makes Selkirk stand out as a leader in that area also,” Pitz said.
Extensive public engagement helped to shape Eveline
Indeed, the city undertook the most extensive citizen engagement effort it has even done for a street reconstruction despite the limits placed on it by COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
In the city’s submission to TAC, public consultation was highlighted under transferability as something others could learn from. Consultation with the public was early and ongoing, and the city was open to discussion and answering questions. The city also demonstrated it was open to change mid-construction when it amended plans to accommodate a new build from the Manitoba Metis Federation.
The presence of a 80-year-old elm tree changed plans again and the city hired an outside consultant to oversee construction to ensure the tree’s survival.
The city also responded to smaller-scale concerns, including citizen-raised ones over a certain curb they found problematic – the city worked with engineers to make the change and maintain safety features.
The old Eveline Street did not meet current requirements for accessibility, so the reconstruction included modifying all intersections to meet current standards and installing ramps and tactile warning pads at each one. Pedestrian peninsulas, or bump outs, were also installed at each intersection to reduce the distance to cross from one side of the street to another and sidewalk approaches were raised at the entrance to each business to make them barrier free.
The project was innovative in numerous ways, including the use of silva cells to hold stormwater to water trees instead of relying on city water and using a geosynthetic material instead of geotextile because of the presence of silty soil. The geosynthetic is stronger and allowed the city to reduce costs and its environmental footprint by using less granular material.
The Eveline Street project will be promoted by TAC through its social media and on its website and will be featured in a video at the 2023 TAC Conference & Exhibition on Sept. 25 at Shaw Centre in Ottawa. The City will also deliver a webinar for TAC members in July to share the project and help other communities learn from the project.