Business owner not sold on plans to overhaul 50th Street

An overpass or underpass on 50th Street north of the Sherwood Park Freeway is meant to alleviate traffic tie-ups but getting through the construction phase may create some major headaches for local businesses.

'I don't know how I'm going to survive,' business owner Hardeep Baraich says

Store owner Hardeep Baraich got a letter from the city this week advising him that the main entrance to his parking lot may be closed during road-widening construction. (Google Maps)

The plan to overhaul 50th Street north of the Sherwood Park Freeway will alleviate traffic tie–ups but getting through the construction phase may create some major headaches for local businesses.

At least one entrepreneur is worried that work to improve traffic flow in the area, including widening the street between 76th Avenue and 90th Avenue, may hurt his business.

Hardeep Baraich owns a handful of stores on 76th Avenue and told CBC News Tuesday he got a letter this week from the city saying the main entrance to his parking lot may be closed during construction.

"I'm in the retail business, my livelihood is on that," he said. "I don't know how I'm going to survive."

The proposed plan would leave 76th Avenue — a much less busy street — as the only way to access his shops. 

We had a customer yesterday, she waited 30 minutes in behind that train.- International Beauty Services employee

The city has begun contacting businesses potentially affected by the construction, a spokesperson said in an email Tuesday. 

In Edmonton Tuesday, the federal government announced it will contribute $39.8 million to complete the project, with $28.3 million coming from the Alberta government and $19.4 million from the city.

The design for the project is not finalized and the city hasn't decided whether the project will include an overpass or underpass north of the freeway, the city added. 

Coun. Ben Henderson said the city aims to start the job in 2020 to be complete by 2023.

Many motorists and business owners welcomed the news. 

Tim Halabi, owner of the Newcastle Pub and Grill at 81st Avenue and 50th Street, said traffic delays from the train keep some customers away during lunch.

"They know that once they cross the tracks, if they're stuck on the other side, they're not getting back to work," Halabi told CBC News Tuesday. "It always seems to happen at the busiest time of the day, either rush hour or during my lunch hour." 
The owner of the Newcastle Pub and Grill on 81st Avenue at 50th Street says customers avoid his pub during lunch because they get stuck in traffic. (Newcastle Pub and Grill)

He is pleased with the city's plans to build an overpass or underpass and widen the street.

"It'll help us a lot."

His bartender, Al Yaghi, also praised the commitment to building an overpass or underpass.

"We need it," he said. "We need it done ASAP."

Halabi recognized that the problem isn't going to be fixed right away.

"It's going to be rough for the first year or so while they're doing the construction 'cause there's going to be re-routing and people avoiding the area," he said. "But I think once the overpass is in, it's going to be fantastic for us."

Debbie Pegg works at International Beauty Services, a beauty salon supplier on 82nd Avenue and hears all about how the train crossing near 50th Street causes major traffic back–ups.

"We had a customer yesterday, she waited 30 minutes in behind that train." 
International Beauty Services staff say customers get stuck in long traffic delays, sometimes up to 30 minutes. (CBC)

Pegg has worked at the service shop for more than 20 years.

"They should have done that a long time ago," she said of the overpass. "The customers would absolutely love it because then they're not constantly waiting."

The city plans to host a public information session from 5 to 8 p.m. on June 26 at The King's University to share details of the project.

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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