Ah, life at Portage and Main, the barricaded heart of the city. In the first shot, a young couple—likely tourists—try to cross the intersection, perhaps unaware of the underground concourse. Meanwhile, in the second photo, a squeegee guy proves that where there’s a will there’s a way.
It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted on this website about how embarrassing the barricades at Portage and Main are. They’re a relic of 1960s city planning that puts the automobile before the human being, turning the intersection into a makeshift freeway designed to usher people through downtown rather than bring them to—and keep them—downtown. They’re a giant fuck-you to pedestrians, forcing people underground like Morlocks, down dark and cavernous stairways into a rat’s maze of sickening 1970s oranges and browns. In the process, they ensure that life above ground ceases to exist, deadening not just the intersection itself, but its surroundings as well.
But now that the city’s newest mayor has been sworn into office, all of this may change. One of Brian Bowman’s campaign promises was to ensure that the intersection would once again open to pedestrians when the contract to keep it closed expires in 2019. If this is going to happen, planning for that day has to start now—a new design isn’t rocket science, but these things do take time. Bowman’s actions in the coming months on Portage and Main will be quite telling. Will he provide the change at city hall that his campaign promised? If planning for a new Portage and Main begins soon, then perhaps he will.