July 14, 2016 11:09 am
Updated: July 15, 2016 11:53 am

After lengthy delay, Edmonton’s 102 Avenue Bridge opening Friday

WATCH ABOVE: The delayed and much-maligned 102 Avenue Bridge project is almost complete. The bridge will re-open to traffic Friday morning. The news has left drivers and businesses near the bridge breathing a huge sigh of relief. Fletcher Kent reports.

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Edmonton drivers are getting a great summer surprise as the city has announced the 102 Avenue Bridge will open Friday morning.

At 10 a.m. Friday, one lane in each direction will open to vehicles and pedestrians. There will be two lanes of traffic open in each direction during rush hours, starting Friday afternoon.

The city said only one lane will be open in each direction during off-peak hours to allow work to be finished on the bridge during the summer and fall. Rails still need to be installed and the concrete median on Groat Road has to be replaced.

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“We’re relieved that we’re opening the bridge to traffic,” Matt Boiko with the City of Edmonton said.

“It’s relief for the citizens of Edmonton. I know everybody’s been impacted by this, mostly the businesses in the area. We’re just really thankful with everyone’s patience and understanding. It’s been quite a real challenging couple of years.”

The bridge was initially set to reopen in September, but the city is crediting good weather and hard work for the early opening.

READ MORE: 102 Avenue Bridge to open in August: City of Edmonton

Area business owners are overjoyed with the news. Over the past couple years, many nearby businesses have struggled to bring in customers with the closed bridge cutting off traffic to the area. Some businesses have shut down altogether.

READ MORE: 102 Ave. bridge construction ‘nail in the coffin’ for Edmonton’s Call the Kettle Black

Joyce Thiessen, owner Pear Tree, said while the ladies clothing boutique has had some really good days, the past couple of years have been a struggle.

“This definitely has been a challenge for us. It’s caused us to have to look at our marketing, develop some new techniques, some new ideas,” Thiessen explained.

“I am happy. The bridge is open and I’m ecstatic,” she added. “I’m going to do a happy dance, it’s a good day.”

READ MORE: Another Edmonton business closes due to construction on 102 Avenue bridge

Allison MacLean, owner of Carbon Environmental Boutique, was very excited to learn the bridge will be open Friday. While the store wasn’t open before the bridge closure, she is excited to see how business will change.

“We’ve been quite invisible at the end of a dead-end street so to be back on one of those main arteries into downtown and visible again, it’ll be huge,” she said.

MacLean admits it might take a bit of time for people to get back into routine of driving down 102 Avenue, but hopes the traffic will be back quickly.

“There have been many months where you’re getting ready to write that rent cheque or pay staff or pay suppliers and it’s been really tight,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to it getting better.

“I think a little bit of bubbly of some kind might be in order.”

Groat Road and the trail on the west side of the road will be closed during several weekends and overnights in the coming weeks as crews continue to finish the project.

The new $32-million bridge will have four lanes of traffic which will allow ETS buses to travel across. The bridge will also have wider sidewalks and a bike lane.

Work to replace the bridge over Groat Road began in July 2014, and was set to last until September 2015. However, three of the girders buckled last March, shutting down Groat Road for weeks and pushing back the opening of the project.

READ MORE: Bridge girders over Groat Road weren’t properly braced: City of Edmonton

An investigation into what went wrong found the bridge’s girders were not properly braced during construction. The contractor is paying the city more than $11,000 per day for the delays. That money goes towards extra transit costs and engineering costs the city is facing because of the bridge delay.

© 2016 Global News

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