Edmonton

Route cause: Yellowhead Trail upgrades will close 66th Street access

The traffic lights at the 66th Street and Yellowhead intersection will be removed after construction to turn the Yellowhead into a freeway begins in 2021, city officials say.

Construction on intersection is set to begin in 2021 or 2022

The city held a public consultation Tuesday night on the proposed closure of 66th Street at Yellowhead Trail. (John Shypitka/CBC)

Get ready to soon say goodbye to the intersection at 66th Street and Yellowhead Trail.

The traffic lights at the intersection and access from the street to the Yellowhead will be removed as part of the construction to turn the Yellowhead into a freeway, said city officials Tuesday.

The city hosted a public consultation event Tuesday night to gauge people's thoughts on early plans for the 66th Street intersection.

"Access to Yellowhead Trail won't be inhibited. It just will be changed a little bit," said Kris Lima, the city's director of the Yellowhead Trail project.

The north-south crossing in northeast Edmonton is one of several along Yellowhead Trail that will be removed to allow the Yellowhead to turn into an 80 km/h six-lane freeway within 10 years. 

The intersections at 149th, 89th and 107th Streets and several other intersections are slated to be removed as part of the $1-billion project. 

Dozens of people showed up at the city's open house to weigh in on the plans for the 66th Street intersection.

While some were in favour of the freeway plan, others were opposed to the future closing of the 66th Street intersection.

Robyn McGeough, lives near 70th Street and 118th Avenue

Area resident Robyn McGeough said the intersection closure will impact her work commute. (John Shypitka/CBC)

"I live near Wayne Gretzky [Drive] and it would be easy for me to use that but I choose to use 66th [Street] because it's lighted. You don't have to try and merge in two lanes into one or try to merge to go east. It's deadly. People don't slow down," said McGeough.

"They should keep 66th [Street]. Even if it's not lighted or if they put an overpass. But I think we need access off of 66th. It's the safest way to get onto the Yellowhead in this area with the lights right now."

William Cholak, lives near 121st Avenue and 65th Street

William Cholak is in support of turning Yellowhead Trail into a freeway. (John Shypitka/CBC)

"The thing is, 50th Street and 82nd Street are well-used streets. 66th Street isn't really used that much. To cut costs, they're just going to have a throughway. The only thing I'd like to see is if a guy is going down 66th Street, you should be able to access the Yellowhead one way or another but there's going to be a concrete barrier," Cholak said.

"What are you going to do? They want to make Yellowhead a freeway. It's not only 66th Street they're closing down."

One of the display posters at the city event Tuesday. (John Shypitka/CBC)

Karen Zeissler, Belvedere resident

"I don't think driving the traffic to 50th Street or Fort Road when both of those already have traffic problems, is going to be the solution," Zeissler said.

"Keeping an overpass at 66th Street to keep that north-south flow, would work for a lot of us. I don't know if it would work for the bigger businesses along the route. But for residents. And it would also keep that flow for people who like to walk and cycle who aren't going to go five miles out of their way. There's just going to be no way for people who don't have cars to get through anymore."

Lance Stiles, Beacon Heights resident

"I'm not confident the city has planned everything," Stiles said.  "I get onto the Yellowhead at 50th Street. What are they going to do to that street to handle the increased traffic? I don't think they do a good job as it is with the timing of the lights. My other question is 'Is the city cognizant of the time factor that they are now imposing on people who do commute?"

Concept plan stage

Concept planning is still underway for roads between 82nd Street and 50th Street along the Yellowhead, according to the city's project website.

A more detailed plan for the Yellowhead freeway project is expected next year.

In order to accommodate the traffic from the future 66th Street intersection closure, Lima says the city will increase the capacity of nearby north-south streets.

Kris Lima, city director of the Yellowhead trail project, said city planners are looking at alternate streets to accommodate the traffic once the 66th Street intersection is closed. (John Shypitka/CBC)

Fort Road, for example, will be widened to accommodate more vehicles, he said.

"We will be making network improvements adjacent to the Yellowhead that might mitigate residents concerns on how they're going to get in and out of their communities," Lima said.

Drivers will be able to access 66th Street when heading westbound on the Yellowhead once the city creates 125th Avenue north of the future freeway, Lima said. 

Construction at the 66th Street intersection is expected to begin in 2021 or 2022, Lima said.

Edmontonians can share their thoughts on the intersection changes online before March 16.

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