March 28, 2016 1:39 pm
Updated: April 4, 2016 8:14 pm

53 Ave. overpass overhaul to cause big Whitemud Drive delays

WATCH ABOVE: The 53 Avenue overpass on Edmonton’s busy Whitemud Drive will be getting some much needed upkeep soon. But as Shallima Maharaj reports, some area residents are worried if enough planning has gone into the traffic disruption it will cause. (From March 9, 2016).

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EDMONTON — Starting Friday night and lasting for a week, traffic will be reduced on Edmonton’s Whitemud Drive at the 53 Avenue overpass.

The City of Edmonton said after 10 p.m. traffic on the Whitemud will be pushed to one side of the road to allow demolition work to happen on the overpass. Those driving east/south will pass over a paved median to go under the overpass, and then weave their way back to the other side of the road.

The median weaving will happen all week, at all hours of the day. Halfway through the project, work will switch to the other side of the bridge.

Matt Boiko, general supervisor for the city’s transportation special projects, said they are expecting long delays, but added this is the only way to get it done.

Also starting on Friday and lasting for a week, the Terwillegar Drive westbound/northbound ramp to Whitemud Drive will be closed. Drivers will have to detour east to the 119/122 street overpass. The city aims to reopen the lanes in time for the afternoon commute on April 8.

Edmonton’s Whitemud Drive. Part of this section by Terwillegar Drive has already been expanded.

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Construction on the 53 Avenue overpass started Monday night and it has some drivers bracing for a slow commute during the spring and summer months.

The city is giving the south Edmonton overpass a facelift in order to extend its lifespan. Most of the work on the project is expected to last from spring until fall with some additional work on 53 Avenue expected to take place next year. But some area residents say they’re not confident it will go as quickly and smoothly as planned.

“(There is) no transportation plan for the southwest outside of the safety of one bridge,” Kathy Porenchuk said earlier this month.

“It’s going to be a huge problem and it won’t be on time because the city isn’t on time on anything ever.”

First constructed in 1977, the 53 Avenue overpass carries six lanes of traffic as well as two turning lanes and two pedestrian walkways over Whitemud Drive.

Many who use the overpass say it’s clear upkeep is needed.

“If they’re going to have to fix the bridge, you don’t have much choice on that,” Wilf Klarenbach said.

“We absolutely agree it needs to be done. I mean, safety first, right? And if there’s anything wrong with the bridge, we certainly want it fixed,” Judy Grose said.

“The bridge is safe – it’s just once again, there’s greater volumes in the area, standards change, it’s time to go in there and just address this particular bridge,” Boiko said.

The city said it has a plan in place to try and mitigate the traffic congestion caused by the construction work. On the overpass, a traffic lane and a turning lane will stay open in each direction.

On Whitemud Drive, two traffic lanes will remain open in each direction during temporary detours.

“We already block up the Whitemud trying to get into the southwest neighbourhoods,” Porenchuk said. “So when you reduce the lanes, we’re going to block up the freeway even further so the whole southwest will be unable to move in the traffic.”

Bus stops will need to be relocated and bus routes will temporarily change, while pedestrians will need to follow a detour and drivers will be asked to reduce their speeds.

“Anytime you do construction on the Whitemud, there’s always an impact,” Boiko said. “But we’ve done everything in our planning process to minimize the impact to the people in the area and the people who will be travelling on the Whitemud.”

“My concern is the city does not have a good reputation for being on time or on budget,” Bob Grose said. “I’d like to believe they can do it this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

With files from Shallima Maharaj.

This story was originally published on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. It was updated on Monday, March 28, and again on Friday, April 1.

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