Work to expand the busy southwest leg of Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive will begin this fall, the province announced Thursday.
The 18-kilometre stretch between Calgary Trail and Whitemud Drive will go from two lanes in each direction to three, for a total of six lanes of traffic.
The project is expected to take about three years to complete and be open to traffic in fall 2022.
The former NDP Transportation Minister Brian Mason announced the widening last summer after design work began in 2017.
The existing Anthony Henday Drive overpasses and the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River were all built to accommodate more lanes of traffic.
The wide outside shoulders of the road will be converted to new lanes in each direction, and the existing bridge deck will be expanded.
For years, the road, which is a provincial roadway, has handled double the amount of traffic it was designed for.
Provincial officials expected to meet traffic capacity in 2020 but, with the growth of Windermere, Terwillegar and other surrounding neighbourhoods, the freeway hit capacity a decade ago.
Projections called for average daily vehicle counts of 40,000 by 2020; a number that was surpassed in 2009. About 80,000 vehicles using that portion of the Henday on a daily basis.
WATCH (June 2018): Bill Van Der Meer with Alberta Transportation explains how Anthony Henday Drive can be widened “fairly easily.”
Drivers who use the southwest stretch of the Henday have been calling for its expansion for years. During non-peak hours, traffic moves quickly. But if you hit the morning or afternoon rush, it’s a much different story.
“Edmontonians know that this section of Anthony Henday Drive has been a pinch point for years, and almost daily we hear about the congestion that families and businesses face along this stretch,” Transportation Minister Ric McIver said in a statement.
The expansion will push capacity up to 120,000 vehicles a day.
“This project will alleviate much of that congestion, improve travel times for commuters and increase safety along this critical route.”
The cost for design work was $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.
Local contractor Carmacks was awarded the construction contract. The company currently holds a 30-year contract to maintain the northwest section of the ring road.
The entire 80-kilometre ring road took 26 years to build, from 1990 to 2016.
The road runs along the Edmonton Transportation/Utility Corridor (TUC), which was established in the 1970s to ensure there was land available for future freeways, power lines, pipelines and other utilities.
— With files from Scott Johnston and Caley Ramsay, Global News