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Planning moves forward on proposed 55km Saskatoon Freeway

WATCH: The Sask. Ministry of Highways has revealed the latest proposal for part of the planned freeway.

Sixteen interchanges, five railway overpasses, at least two flyovers and a major river crossing are part of a proposed Saskatoon Freeway that is currently under study.

The proposed four-lane, 55 kilometre freeway would begin at Highway 11 south of Saskatoon, transverse east and north of the city before connecting with Highway 7 west of the city. The design aims to reduce traffic, especially heavy trucks, in the city.

“It will be a benefit to all,” said Keith Moen, the executive director of the North Saskatoon Business Association. He said that diverting the trucks away from the city will speed up their deliveries.

“Everything that we use in our personal lives, whether it be from our phones to our computers to the books that we read to the clothes on our backs to the food that we eat, all arrives on truck.”

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READ MORE: Feedback sought on routes for proposed Saskatoon Freeway

The project has been broken into three phases and officials say the northern portion of the freeway — Phase 1 — is the most complex.

It involves highways 11, 12 and 16, Wanuskewin Road and Millar Avenue, a crossing over the South Saskatchewan River and a CN rail line.

“This presents numerous technical challenges for interchange spacing and access points,” said a report from a working group tasked to look at design challenges and come up with solutions.

Phase 1 of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway involves 9.5 kilometres of highway, four to five interchanges, and a major bridge.
Phase 1 of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway involves 9.5 kilometres of highway, four to five interchanges, and a major bridge. City of Saskatoon / Supplied

Proposals put forward during a two-day workshop at the end of June include realigning Highway 11 to Wanuskewin Road and constructing an overpass connection to Highway 11 at Penner Road.

The Highways Ministry said an average of 23,000 vehicles currently travel on that stretch of highway daily and over half — 52 per cent — turn on or off Wanuskewin Road.

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The working group said all of the plans it considered had an intersection at Wanuskewin as 4,000 vehicles an hour are projected to pass through the intersection during peak hours in the future.

Several stakeholders were part of the workshop, including the City of Saskatoon, the RM of Corman Park and Wanuskewin Heritage Park.

Other key points that came out of the workshop are intersections at Highway 12 and the realigned Highway 11 with the Saskatoon Freeway, building a connector road from Millar Road to Wanuskewin Road and constructing a flyover across the freeway at the old Highway 11 location.

READ MORE: Highway 7 twinning between Saskatoon and Delisle nears completion

A key issue the group said it had to deal with is Wanuskewin Heritage Park.

Of concern for park officials is preserving land around the park, which they said is crucial for its UNESCO World Heritage application.

“The team was advised that having an inadequate buffer between the National Historic Site and development could derail the World Heritage nomination process,” the freeway’s functional planning study team said in June.

“This is a delicate parcel of land and it is crucial to protect the 6,400 years of history as a gathering place.”

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Wanuskewin was placed on Canada’s tentative list for World Heritage sites in 2017, and park officials said their aim is to be designated by 2022. If approved, it will become Saskatchewan’s first World Heritage site.

An administrator at Wanuskewin Heritage Park told Global News that the organization had no comment at this time.

READ MORE: Passing lanes slated for 2 highways in Saskatchewan

Public forums will be held later in 2019 to gather more feedback on the options developed for Phase 1, with a final decision on the route expected later in the year or in early 2020.

Officials said an environmental impact assessment will be undertaken once the design is finalized and is usually conducted three to five years prior to the start of construction.

There is no current timeline for the construction of the Saskatoon Freeway.