Alberta’s government has announced $120 million in funding to upgrade Edmonton’s Terwillegar Drive.
Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Wednesday along with Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, Edmonton’s only MLA from the United Conservative Party.
“More than 40,000 cars drive on Terwillegar Drive each each and every day,” Madu said.
“I know how bad the situation has become. The people in southwest Edmonton have been working for a long time to see this project completed.”
The work will see Terwillegar Drive widened to four lanes in both directions across Anthony Henday Drive to Windermere Boulevard, as well as a second overpass built over Anthony Henday Drive. There will also be dedicated transit lanes added to each direction of the road.
Intersection improvements will also be made at 23 Avenue and Haddow Drive.
“This project, which is expected to create about 865 new jobs is part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan,” Kenney said. “Our bold, ambitious strategy to build Alberta, diversify our economy, get Albertans back to work, and catapult our province out of the COVID-19 recession back to growth and prosperity.”
Alberta’s Recovery Plan, announced by the government last week, includes a planned $10 billion in infrastructure spending across the province. Kenney said the plan focuses on three main objectives: creating jobs, building infrastructure that will spur economic growth and continuing to diversify Alberta’s economy.
Kenney said the $10 billion will be spent on a range of infrastructure projects, including roads, health-care facilities and schools to create construction jobs, with spinoff benefits to other service providers. Through the overall relaunch plan, Kenney has said it will create around 50,000 jobs in the province.
Edmonton’s Ward 9 Coun. Tim Cartmell was also at Wednesday’s announcement, and said that the upgrades will pave the way for an improved transit corridor.
“It will very importantly provide the ability for the City of Edmonton to layer on premier mass transit service to the southwest corner of Edmonton,” Cartmell said. “Which, quite frankly, cannot be done without these improvements to Terwillegar Drive.”
The project will also feature a multi-use trail on the east boulevard of Terwillegar Drive and a pedestrian bridge to connect the trail from Brookview to Brookside.
City council had previously approved turning Terwillegar Drive into an expressway during budget discussions on Dec. 7, voting to take on over $100 million in debt for the first phase of the project.
“We have been, and continue to be, the fastest-growing part of Edmonton and yet we have seen the least amount of infrastructure investment over the years,” Cartmell said.
“This is, in essence, one of the last pieces of the puzzle.
“We have seen the City of Edmonton fund $102 million in the first phase of Terwillegar Drive, which would include those areas north of Rabbit Hill Road, including improvements to thee Whitemud/Terwillegar interchange, and across Rainbow Valley Bridge.”
Mayor Don Iveson, who was not present at the announcement, said later Wednesday that while the investment was “good news,” it doesn’t address any of the projects that city council identified to the premier as priority infrastructure.
“In a letter dated April 10 that was requested by the province outlining the city’s priorities for stimulus, there were a number of projects that council — on administration’s advice — put forward that have not been funded,” Iveson said.
“So certainly if there’s more coming to Edmonton, I would hope that the province references the local priorities that we provided to them.”
Transportation Minister Ric McIver said Wednesday that the upgrade will improve travelling in the city for many Edmontonians.
“This is a strong project. When we think about making things better, we think about transportation in terms of networks, and Terwillegar Drive is a terrific example where we’re going to make the network in the city of Edmonton stronger,” McIver said.
Kenney said that the project will help move forward his government’s priority in getting people in the province back to work following the COVID-19 crisis.
“The COVID crash of the global economy and of global oil prices hit just as we were starting to rebound from five years of economic stagnation,” Kenney said. “Now we’re faced with frankly depression-era levels of unemployment officially at 15 per cent, but in reality closer to 25 per cent.
“As bad as things got, we were able to keep 85 per cent of businesses operating, within new safe guidelines, representing about 95 per cent of Alberta’s economy — way more than other places that went into near-total lockdown,” Kenney said.
“And that means we are better positioned than most for rapid and robust recovery.”
Edmonton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Janet Riopel said the project has been a “long time coming.”
“The enhancements announced today, they’re going to ease really lengthy commutes — that’s certain,” she said. “But perhaps even more importantly, they’re going to provide much-needed stimulus by injecting capital into our economy… creating hundreds of new, well-paying jobs.”
Construction on the project is expected to begin in 2021.