City report brings forward new option to ease congestion on Terwillegar Drive

A new report may make the City of Edmonton make a U-turn on long-promised plans to turn Terwillegar Drive into a freeway, after it revealed the city could save $900 million and years of construction by making it an expressway instead.

Both options presented for the Terwillegar Drive corridor — between Whitemud Drive and Anthony Henday Drive — involve adding more lanes to ease traffic congestion, particularly at 40th Avenue.

A six-lane freeway would have free-flowing traffic, interchanges and a $1.2 billion price tag. It would also take 30 years to build.

The report offers a new option: an expressway. It would have intersections with traffic lights and would enable transit use and access for pedestrians and cyclists. It would cost $300 million and take about 10 years to build. The plan would involve widening Terwillegar Drive to four lanes in each direction, with the potential to use one of the four as a dedicated transit lane. 

Plans to improve Terwillegar Drive have been discussed since 2001.

Expressway would cost $300 million, city says

The report says public feedback received earlier this year showed support for maintaining all current direct access to Terwillegar Drive, as well as minimizing noise and traffic diversion through neighbourhoods.

The expressway would maintain current access and accommodate future transit and pedestrian options, the report says.

“If there was an opportunity to integrate bike lanes or some kind of shared use path, that was something they were interested in being able to see,” said Jason Meliefste, the city’s manager of infrastructure, planning and design.

“An expressway provides a better opportunity to be able to do that, as opposed to a freeway. Not many sidewalks along Whitemud Drive today, but certainly along many expressways within the city of Edmonton.”

Meliefste says an expressway would be similar to 91st Street, Stony Plain Road, 100th Avenue or Manning Drive. 

Turning Terwillegar Drive into a freeway would involve eight stages of construction, estimated to end in 2050.

Building the expressway would involve three stages of construction, ending in 2030.

The city has not yet made a decision regarding either option, and council will discuss both of them on Oct. 2.

City administration will also gather more public input this fall.

A visualization of the proposed expressway plan. (Supplied/City of Edmonton)

‘I would say this is a very good solution’

Terwillegar Drive runs through Ward 9, one of the fastest growing areas of Edmonton.

Councillor Tim Cartmell says he’s on board with the option of turning Terwillegar Drive into an expressway.

Some residents in the area have been waiting 30 years to see traffic congestion issues dealt with, he said — with an added 30 years for construction of the freeway, he says he’d rather see shovels in the ground soon.

“We see through this report and through some of the options presented that there is a path to see action finally happen on this corridor,” he said. 

“We have the benefit of an option here that will achieve all of those goals but at less than 25 per cent of the overall cost.

“I would say this is a very good solution that we really need to think about.”

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