No decision yet on southwest Anthony Henday but it’s getting closer

A view of the southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive from the Global 1 news helicopter. .
A view of the southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive from the Global 1 news helicopter. . File/Global News

While you sat behind the wheel on Monday, dealing with traffic that didn’t really move, the thought of diverting to the Anthony Henday in southwest Edmonton likely crossed your mind.

It’s been on the mind of planners both at the Alberta legislature and at Edmonton City Hall as well. The project manager for Edmonton’s ring road confirmed on Tuesday that consultants have been hired, plans are being looked at and work is being done to expand that original stretch that was the first to open 10 years ago from two lanes to three.

“I’m guessing this project is probably coming more on the radar, but exactly when it is going to go ahead is hard to predict,” said Bill Van Der Meer, who confirmed Alberta Transportation officials review the project annually along with other projects like the Calgary ring road, the bypass in Red Deer and other roadways.

They look at traffic and congestion, but also regional tie-ins.

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“It’s a province-wide priority list,” Van Der Meer said.

He said more will be known in the spring when the budget is clearer. Right now, lane widening is not in the three-year plan.

READ MORE: Edmonton and Leduc County sign annexation agreement

The southwest expansion of the Anthony Henday is also intertwined with other projects in the area. There’s extending Terwillegar Drive into 170 Street to service the west side of Edmonton International Airport. There’s also work on 41 Avenue S.W. as cargo expansion continues to be a regional priority.

Mayor Don Iveson said the airport plan remains a focus of the Airports Authority, Leduc County and the City of Leduc as they look at long-term economic development.

He said they’re not only trying to lure e-commerce giant Amazon to Edmonton, but Alibaba as well.

“It’s the opportunity to do a significant amount of work with third-party logistics and freight forwarding and distribution,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why those roads will be important in the medium term for economic growth and for why good planning on the back side of the airport is critical to our long-term prosperity.”

Commuters in southwest Edmonton say the Henday and its bottlenecks are the result of having only two lanes instead of three. They also say that’s why there are so many other traffic headaches in the area.

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Iveson said the city is still in discussion with the province on land swaps to help build a new interchange on the Henday at 135 Street, which would head south to a new park’n’ride near the south LRT expansion.

“We’ve got a pretty good sense of what the infrastructure is,” Iveson said. “How to prioritize it and how to pay for it, that’s going to be the tough work of the next council. We’re going to obviously have to work with the province on that.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s getting close to full’: Southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive reaching capacity

The latest projections from the province show how quickly neighbourhoods like Windermere and others have grown. Projections called for average daily vehicle counts of 40,000 by 2020; a number that was already surpassed in 2009.

“It’s a crystal ball on what we anticipate is going to happen. It’s not unusual to not be bang on the money,” Van Der Meer said.

“It developed pretty quickly in the southwest. Part of that’s obviously got to do with when you put a major road in there, they will come and that spurred some of that development of those communities.

“Times were good,” he added. “Things moved pretty quickly.”

Except on Monday, when the Whitemud was closed due to a fatal crash, and nothing moved.

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