Yellowhead Freeway Edmonton – Money and Business Concerns
The Yellowhead Trail is one of the busiest traffic arteries in Edmonton. City fathers have wanted to turn the heavily used commuter roadway into a full blown freeway since 2011 but two major factors stand in the way. One is money to do the improvements; the other disgruntled business owners that claim their businesses will suffer if the roadway is changed.
This past Wednesday the subject of cost was on the table at the counsellors’ meeting. Major Stephen Mandel noted that the city just can’t give the go ahead on a project that will cost several billion dollars without some sort of viable plan. As an example, to create the new interchange at 149th St. would cost in the neighbourhood of $500 million. That’s taking into account the legal fees, purchasing of the land and the ever increasing expenses. Compare that to the interchange at 156th St. that went up in 2006 at a cost of $70 million.
Mandel is in favour of a more cost effective solution, considering construction of that interchange wouldn’t be feasible for roughly 25 years. A public meeting will be held in a few weeks to discuss the matter and hear objections and suggestions. That statement was music to the ears of some local business owners who believe the changing of the Yellowhead Trail into a freeway would adversely affect their enterprises.
Sid Hanson, owner of Caster Town Ltd is one of the most vocal of those business owners. He noted that if the Yellowhead Trail does become a freeway he will lose access to that important route. The freeway would take away his parking lots and make it difficult for trucks to access his business. In short, the decade old business will have to shut down and/or move.
Yellowhead Motor Inn is in the same boat. Their property gets 80 percent of its bookings from truckers. If the roadway becomes a freeway and there is not easy and safe exit, those truckers will just keep going until they find somewhere else with better access.
Councillor Amarjeet Sohi agreed with these and other business owners that attended the Wednesday meeting, noting that the project needs further study before proceeding. He also noted that changing the Yellowhead Trail into a freeway without considering the impact on established local business owners is not an option.
Currently there are two options on the table for the 149th St intersection. One, Strategy A, is making a partial interchange, which would cost roughly $305 to $370 million. The rail crossing would have to also be adjusted, costing up to $135 million.
The second, Strategy B, uses service roads that are one-way only, and would cost somewhere between $170 and $215 million. An at-grade rail crossing would have to be constructed, which can cost up to $195 million.
Both items, as well as the original plans, will be up for discussion by council early in 2014. Considering that by 2044 nearly 120,000 vehicles will be using the Yellowhead, something has to be done to prevent total gridlock, a disturbing possibility.