Edmonton festivals brace for impact of Groat Road Bridge area construction
There are mixed feelings from festivals using Hawrelak Park as work begins Monday on a rehabilitation project in the Groat Road Bridge area that will last two-and-a-half years.
The $48 million project includes Mayfair Bridge over Groat Road near Emily Murphy Park south of the river, the Groat Road Bridge over the North Saskatchewan — which is two spans side by side — and the Victoria Park Road Bridge over Groat Road.
At 9 a.m. Monday, a two-kilometre stretch of Groat Road, from the top of the south riverbank to north of the main bridge, will be affected. Traffic from 87 Avenue to Victoria Park Road will be reduced to one lane in each direction.
The city has said construction will be paused during the August long weekend; Heritage Festival runs from Aug. 4 to 6.
“Even if the lanes are open and traffic is flowing, during these events, we will try not to have construction vehicles coming to [the] site,” said Sam El Mohtar, the director of transportation infrastructure delivery for the city.
“There’s other things that might happen – one lane of traffic will be used for pedestrians to walk on the bridge and get to [the park].”
However, Jim Gibbon, executive director of the Edmonton Heritage Festival Association, said there are more questions than answers at this point about how the festival will be impacted.
“The question isn’t going to be can people get in or out, The question is going to be how,” Gibbon said.
The road leaving the park towards Mayfair Bridge is of concern to Gibbon.
“This is where the issues are going to be. If there’s any construction here of any kind then that shrinks down all the access right?” he said.
“The issue is we know for sure there’s going to be access and cars in and out – civic events is going to make sure it all happens – it’s just as you squeeze things in, everything becomes a little bit slower.”
The sidewalks outside of Hawrelak are scheduled to be widened, but Gibbon is also uncertain about how that will affect drop offs at the park during the festival.
He said that, last year, roughly 100,000 seniors, those with mobility issues and parents with young children or strollers were dropped off just south of the park entrance.
“If that’s all dug up… there’ll be no access of any kind on that sidewalk at all, either from cars dropping off or from people coming in from that side,” he said.
Gibbon said festival organizers will be meeting with the city next month to discuss construction and its impacts.
Sheila O’Kelly, president of the ITU World Triathlon Series Edmonton, said the course for this year’s event will be altered because of the construction.
“We will not go over Groat Bridge. We will go up into the university area and along Saskatchewan Drive and back down into the park for the age groupers,” she said.
“Also, for the elites, we also go up Emily Murphy [Park], which we did last year anyway, and back down to the park, so multiple laps.”
O’Kelly said the same route will be used in 2019. She does not expect the roadwork to be an inconvenience for volunteers or for spectators either this year or next.
“We understand that bridge has to be fixed. What we’re doing is shortening up the lap, so the shorter the lap, the less volunteers you need. It’s not a major impact for us,” she said.
“[For spectators] it might even be better because Groat Road Bridge itself, one side of it will be open, normally the whole thing is closed.”
O’Kelly is more worried about whether construction on the bridge area will be completed on schedule in 2020.
“The bigger, bigger concern is 2020… when we will host the grand final… we will have 70 plus countries and 4,000 plus athletes,” she said.
If construction is not done by then, O’Kelly said it isn’t clear what organizers will do.
“Obviously we’d have to head in a different direction for a 20 kilometre loop so it would probably involve way more disruption of neighbourhoods and traffic and everything else,” she said.
The ITU World Triathlon takes place July 27 and 28.
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