Fort Road still closed for construction, northeast Edmonton business owners frustrated

Click to play video: 'Slow Fort Road construction frustrates northeast Edmonton businesses'
Slow Fort Road construction frustrates northeast Edmonton businesses
WATCH: Construction work to widen Fort Road in northeast Edmonton should have wrapped up by now but the area is still ripped up and a traffic nightmare. As Sarah Reid explains, area businesses say its next to impossible to attract new customers – Oct 3, 2023

The expected completion date for the widening of Fort Road in northeast Edmonton came and went last week, but the road is still closed and a mess of dirt and heavy equipment remains — leaving area business owners frustrated.

“It’s taken a long time and it’ll be nice once it’s done,” said Ray Pirtlove, owner of Transit Smokehouse and BBQ.

Crews are working to widen Fort Road to 6 lanes from Yellowhead Trail to 66 Street. The road will also be lowered to increase the CN Rail underpass, according to the city.

The construction started in August 2021 and a bulletin from that time said the project should be finished in “fall 2023.” Fort Road, which has been closed from 125th Avenue to 66th Street since April, was supposed to open on Sept. 29.

Pirtlove said the construction has hurt his business, with profits down 50 per cent compared to last year.

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“I’ve got days where I do no business — my labour outstrips my sales,” he said.

“With that road closure, it’s been difficult for all the vendors in this area.”

A spokesperson from the city said there will be some construction work continuing into 2024, but Fort Road is scheduled to be reopened at a reduced capacity by the end of this year.

Pirtlove said the city has dropped the ball when it comes to sharing information about construction projects.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s My Grandma’s Attic on Fort Road closing its doors'
Edmonton’s My Grandma’s Attic on Fort Road closing its doors

Shiri Murti, owner of Economy Muffler and Repair, says the construction has affected his business by about 30 per cent.

“I don’t think there’s benefit to any of the businesses around here,” Murti said.

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“There’s no sign of when it’s going to be over.”

Both business owners said they should be given recourse for the dip in business activity they believe is caused by the construction.

“There’s no benefit right now, it hurts business. There’s no recourse, there’s no relief,” Pirtlove said.

“I think (the city) should be compensating us for all of the losses we have incurred,” said Murti.

Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack introduced a motion at city council Wednesday to explore and develop a policy that would see business owners be given financial assistance if they are affected by major construction projects.

“I always ascribe to the theory that, yes, these projects that we’re doing are the right things to be doing, they’re for the greater good, but the problem is we need to make sure the businesses can make it through to the end of construction so they can actually experience that benefit,” he said.

This concept has been floated before council a few times, but councils over the years have voted it down, Knack said.

Click to play video: 'Gateway Blvd. businesses voice construction concerns'
Gateway Blvd. businesses voice construction concerns

Finding who would qualify for the assistance would be complicated, city staff said, because it’s hard to tell if a business is indeed being negatively impacted by construction or if it’s due to other factors.

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Another challenge would be applying the financial assistance fairly across the city and determining whether businesses near current and finished construction projects would be compensated retroactively.

What’s different about this version of the policy is it suggests businesses might be asked to pay back the financial assistance once construction is finished and it has — ideally — improved the business’s revenues.

This iteration of the policy narrowly passed in a vote Wednesday afternoon, with councillors Knack, Tim Cartmell, Sarah Hamilton, Aaron Paquette, Karen Principe, Jennifer Rice and Anne Stevenson being in favour of developing a policy.

The policy will come back to executive committee next year.

Murti said he hopes that widening the road will bring more customers to the area and help improve the state of his business, but he doesn’t think the project will be finished on time.

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