March 4, 2019 8:56 pm
Updated: March 4, 2019 9:27 pm

Yellowhead Freeway plans to close 66 Street: ‘It’s going to be absolutely terrible’

WATCH ABOVE: Construction on the Yellowhead Trail Freeway is scheduled to begin later this year, with a projected end date of 2026. The changes could negatively impact certain businesses. Sarah Kraus explains.

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With construction getting underway this year on converting Yellowhead Trail into a freeway, some business owners along the corridor are left shaking their heads.

Kelly Yakimyshyn builds lift axles for semi-trucks that haul wood, fuel and other dangerous goods. He purchased his shop seven years ago in an ideal location.

“It’s right off 66 Street and Yellowhead and the trailers can get in here very easily – and out very easily. Within just a couple of minutes,” he said.

But the proposed construction would ruin that.

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READ MORE: City of Edmonton seeks input on Yellowhead Trail freeway plan

“The biggest change will be the removal of the signalized intersection at Yellowhead Trail and 66 Street, in addition to the removal of a lot of direct access routes onto Yellowhead,” explained the city’s director of the Yellowhead Trail project, Kris Lima.

That part of the project is still in the concept planning stage so things can change. But one thing is for sure: the lights at 66 Street are coming out.

“The city has come and approached me with their plan to block off all the accesses to Yellowhead Trail, which in turn will block our shop off,” Yakimishyn said.

“The vehicles will either have to go through 50 Street and residential areas, or Wayne Gretzky Drive to residential areas to make it into our shop.”

READ MORE: Edmonton approves $510M for Yellowhead Trail upgrades

Customers, like Super B driver Ben Nickerson, say that just won’t happen.

“I would probably go to somewhere else that’s more convenient, to be honest,” Nickerson said.

On Monday, he was driving a load of crude oil. Nickerson has to make wide turns and follow truck route rules. Any unauthorized detour could result in a ticket.

Even though he drives for a living, he isn’t sold on the idea of converting the Yellowhead either.

“I thought that’s why they build the Anthony Henday — to be the freeway, the roundabout to divert traffic.”

READ MORE: City preparing for barrage of input for when access points to Yellowhead disappear

Yakimishyn is worried Nickerson won’t be the only truck driver that he ends up losing.

“To have businesses and then all of a sudden not have your customers be able to get to you, it will push your customers to other businesses that do have easy access. That in itself is unfair,” he explained.

He believes the closure of 66 Street and other access points would force him into selling his shop altogether.

Lima says he doesn’t like hearing that.

“We try to work with the business owners to try to come up with acceptable solutions to both parties.

“We want to mitigate their concerns about having their customers get in to them,” he said.

The city is encouraging people like Yakimishyn and Nickerson to voice their concerns at public engagement sessions.

The first is scheduled for 4:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Jerry Forbes Centre and there’s another one scheduled for Saturday, too.

“There’s good opportunity for feedback and input and our teams will be excited to hear from them and hopefully work with them moving forward.”

If you can’t attend either session, emails can be sent to yellowhead@edmonton.ca

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