Here, there and everywhere: Edmonton undergoes massive construction season

·3 min read
It has been an exceptionally busy year for construction on Edmonton streets, with projects large and small underway in every corner of the city. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)
It has been an exceptionally busy year for construction on Edmonton streets, with projects large and small underway in every corner of the city. (Nathan Gross/CBC - image credit)

City councillor Scott McKeen sometimes feels he has only himself to blame for all the road construction he sees.

"There have been days where I've been driving around my ward and I got so upset, I was mad at myself," McKeen told CBC News this week.

"I didn't know who else to blame."

McKeen and his fellow council members approved a massive construction season this year. The city has been working on 273 projects, in addition to regular road and utility maintenance.

McKeen, who represents the downtown area, has had his share of encounters with projects.

"It is worse this year," he said. "I think it feels worse for a number of reasons."

Large projects include finishing the Valley Line Southeast LRT, starting the Valley Line West LRT, upgrading Yellowhead Trail, expanding Terwillegar Drive and Jasper Avenue New Vision.

The big ones are obvious but there's also ongoing maintenance and repair work on roads and utilities, McKeen said.

He said the projects, approved by council, are important for jobs, the economy and to maintain the city's infrastructure.

Adam Laughlin, manager of integrated infrastructure services, said it's a banner year for projects. Council had approved $7 billion worth of capital projects for 2019-22.

"The reason folks are seeing more is because there is a lot more," Laughlin said in an interview this week. "Council's strong investment in shaping Edmonton is front and centre."

Scheduled work includes renewing 110 kilometres of local roadway and sidewalk and paving 30 kilometres of gravel roads.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not caused delays in the projects, Laughlin said.

Laughlin said construction was one of the areas that continued despite the pandemic, providing 13,000 jobs and involving 300 local companies.

Commutes double

In some areas, like 99th Street, lane closures are slowing down traffic in both directions.

Gurdeep Mann, who owns two restaurants in Mill Woods, shops at a grocery warehouse on 99th Street a couple times a week.

His trip there used to take 15 minutes but now takes at least 30.

"It takes a lot of time away from us that we could spend on our restaurant," Mann said Wednesday. "It's taking too long — the city should see this and do something."

The 99th Street job is one of many utility and road maintenance projects underway in the city, over and above the 273 projects.

The work on 99th Street and 63rd Avenue consists of water main repairs, scheduled to be complete later next week, an Epcor spokesperson said.

Another water main project on 99th and 60th Avenue is expected to continue until early October.

Utility upgrades

Electrical work on 109th Street north of the High Level Bridge started Sept. 7 and is expected to take two months to complete.

The city issued a permit for the work after deeming it essential for the overall upgrade of infrastructure in the downtown core, a city spokesperson said.

Nathan Gross/CBC
Nathan Gross/CBC

Wade Fleming, owner of Central Tire on 109th Street, isn't convinced the work needs to be done now.

He believes the slow traffic created from the lane closures will deter some customers from visiting his shop, at his busiest time of year when people are getting winter or all-weather tires.

"You're going to have people trying to get here, get down on the lot, get in, get parked, get prices," Fleming said. "They're not going to be able to. So are you going to lose customers? Are you going to lose business? Yep, absolutely."

Delayed projects

About 20 per cent of the city's projects are delayed and 10 per cent are over budget.

Delayed projects include the design for renewing the Churchill LRT Station, upgrades to the Bonnie Doon Health Centre, and the 50th Street CP Rail grade separation and road widening.

"I think next year will be as busy," Laughlin said. "Because of the size of the capital program, there's work that will carry over into the 2023-2026 capital program."

One project Edmontonians can count on living with for several years is the Valley Line West LRT, with preliminary work now started along 104th Avenue.

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