Report on Saskatoon Freeway draws criticism from residents

Click to play video 'Report on Saskatoon Freeway draws criticism from residents' Report on Saskatoon Freeway draws criticism from residents
WATCH: Students tell city council they are opposed to the proposed Saskatoon Freeway – Oct 28, 2019

Ten people, including two elementary school students, spoke to city council on Monday to share their concerns over the environmental impact of the proposed Saskatoon Freeway.

“The [Northeast] Swale was part of a humungous ecosystem that covered 40 per cent of North America and after humans came [that] has gone all the way down to one per cent,” said Abhinav Menon, a Grade 7 student at Dr. John G. Egnatoff School.

“We need to save this ecosystem because this ecosystem contains what we won’t find anywhere else.”

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READ MORE: Planning moves forward on proposed 55km Saskatoon Freeway

Menon’s co-presenter and fellow Grade 7 student Kate Deptuch said they would be “unhappy and disappointed” if the project was built.

Plans for the first section of the 55 kilometre-long, four-lane highway were completed at the beginning of October. That part of the freeway would cut through the Northeast Swale, an ecologically diverse ecosystem that includes native prairie and wetlands habitat.

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

The plans show the freeway would also come close to the historic Wanuskewin Heritage Park, for which there is a UNESCO World Heritage site application underway.

Other speakers expressed concern that any environmental assessments would be “mere formalities” and called for the project to “go back to the drawing board” if not entirely scrapped.

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READ MORE: Feedback sought on routes for proposed Saskatoon Freeway

The freeway, if built, is designed to reduce congestion and improve safety in the city by diverting traffic away from Saskatoon.

The North Saskatoon Business Association’s Andrew Shaw, the only person to speak in favour of the freeway, told council that the freeway would bring a number of economic benefits, “particularly with the movement of goods around our city.”

“The number one way for anything to get in and out of our city is via transport truck.”

The freeway was first proposed more than 20 years ago and the provincial project is expected to cost $2 billion.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Highways previously told Global News that an environmental impact assessment will take place once the plans for the entire project are finalized.