At long last, the busy southwest leg of Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive is getting an extra lane in each direction.
The 18-kilometre stretch between 111 Street and Whitemud Drive will go from two lanes in each direction to three, for a total of six lanes of traffic.
Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced the $100-million widening project a news conference on Tuesday.
“We are well aware of the bottlenecks and the traffic jams that occur on the segment of the Henday between 111 Street and Whitemud Drive, particularly during rush hour,” Mason said.
Design work began in October 2017 and money for the widening was announced in the spring budget. Mason expects construction will begin next spring.
“We anticipate construction will take about three years to complete,” Mason added.
The existing overpasses were all built to accommodate more lanes of traffic, explained Bill Van der Meer, project manager of the Edmonton ring road.
“Besides the bridges, the entire ring road – not just southwest, all of it – has been graded and set up for the future, which is eight-lane divided, typically. In some sections, we’re actually 10-lane divided,” he said.
Van der Meer said the bridges over the North Saskatchewan River are already designed to easily accommodate more lanes by expanding the existing bridge deck.
“You can simply widen the top of it. So it’s all been constructed to be able to widen it relatively easily, without getting back into the water and building all the way up.”
WATCH: Bill Van Der Meer with Alberta Transportation explains how Anthony Henday Drive can be widened “fairly easily.”
The Henday runs through city councillor Tim Cartmell’s Ward 9. He said enduring a few years of construction will be worth it.
“There is no doubt that the neighbourhoods of southwest Edmonton will greatly benefit from improvements to Anthony Henday. The transportation system in southwest Edmonton has been severely challenged for many years,” Cartmell said, adding this is the first step in fixing several traffic woes in the rapidly growing corner of the city.
The entire ring road took 26 years to build, and as it grew so too did the surrounding neighbourhoods.
“Completing the Henday has made a huge difference to goods movement and commuters in the region,” Mayor Don Iveson said on Monday.
“But as with all freeways, they tend to become their own worst enemy and attract a lot more traffic.”
WATCH: Edmonton city councillor Tim Cartmell said he’s heard from his constituents concerns surrounding traffic congestion on the southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive. He explains what the expansion of the roadway will mean for the area.
Cartmell said developments like Windermere have grown because of the Henday and vice versa.
“We cannot abandon people to congestion,” Cartmell said on Monday. “Until there is viable alternatives to hopping in your car, we are, to some degree, stuck with this mode of transportation until we can replace it with something else.”
Right now the road sees double the amount of traffic it was designed for.
Provincial officials expected to meet traffic capacity in 2020 but, with the growth of Windermere and other surrounding neighbourhoods, the freeway hit capacity 10 years ago.
Projections called for average daily vehicle counts of 40,000 by 2020; a number that was surpassed in 2009. On Tuesday, Mason said about 80,000 vehicles using that portion of the Henday on a daily basis.
WATCH: The Alberta government announced plans to widen the southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive from four lanes to six. Bill Van Der Meer with Alberta Transportation explains how the expansion will help alleviate traffic in southwest Edmonton.
Van der Meer said the expansion will push capacity up to 120,000 vehicles a day.
“The goal is to just improve the flow on the road. It won’t get 100 per cent get us back to a full, free-flowing road and a very high level of service — which is what the 40,000 represents.”
Mason said the cost for design work is $6 million, and the remaining three years of construction work will push the total up to $100 million. A large portion of the southwest leg was made of concrete instead of asphalt.
“We’ll get a decision on that fairly soon, I would expect. Then we’ve got to go to the next level and continue the planning, recognizing whatever comes out of south of 41 Avenue is likely going to go north through Riverbend and Terwillegar.”
“It’s that additional traffic that we’ve got to plan for, as well as the servicing.”
WATCH: Edmonton city councillor Tim Cartmell said he’s pleased to hear the Alberta government will widened the southwest leg of Anthony Henday Drive. He said drivers in the area have been feeling the traffic pressure for some time.
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