The Saskatchewan government says it's hit upon a solution for what it says will be the most challenging section of the proposed Saskatoon freeway.
The 55-kilometre, four-lane loop around the city is meant to ease traffic congestion, divert heavy truck traffic from inside the city and has been previously estimated to cost $2 billion.
The timeline for construction — should the government move ahead — remains unclear, though the project is being designed in three phases.
Phase 1 — a 9.5-kilometre stretch from Highway 16 northwest of Saskatoon down to the South Saskatchewan River — "is arguably the most complex of the three stages," according to a recent project newsletter from Saskatchewan's Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.
That's due to that section's proximity to Highways 11 and 12 and Wanuskewin Heritage Park and the challenges of interchange spacing that would result, according to the newsletter.
There's also the fact that Warman and Martensville are nearby, according to a memo the ministry sent the City of Saskatoon last month.
"Two rapidly growing communities close to Saskatoon will create high peak-hour commuter traffic that must be accommodated with expected provincial highway traffic," according to the memo.
After talks with various groups, including the city, the freeway's design team is now exploring a design workaround that would include the realignment of Highway 11 to Wanuskewin Road.
Ministry defends need for freeway
Some have questioned the need for a new highway. In a recent post on the Saskatoon Freeway website, the ministry addressed that skepticism, with congestion being a key feature of the province's marketing pitch.
"With more than 7,000 trucks travelling daily on both Highways 11 and 16, the route will move large carriers around the perimeter of the city," the ministry wrote.
Projected population growth in Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville is also a key assumption built into the freeway plan.
Saskatoon city councillors are scheduled to talk about the freeway project Monday afternoon at city hall. City council already gave its political blessing to the project several terms ago.
Public open houses about the freeway project are expected to take place later this year. The dates for those are expected to be announced on the ministry's website for the freeway project.