Edmonton to borrow $510M to turn Yellowhead into freeway

Edmonton city council has given the green light for the city to borrow more than $500 million to transform Yellowhead Trail into a freeway.

Borrowing costs will push up taxes by 1.76 per cent over 10 years

The City of Edmonton will borrow $510 million to upgrade Yellowhead Trail, and taxpayers will cover the borrowing costs. (CBC News)

Edmonton city council has given the green light for the city to borrow more than $500 million to upgrade Yellowhead Trail into a freeway.

The vote Tuesday was unanimous.

"We're going to fix the Yellowhead," Mayor Don Iveson said after the vote was displayed.

The $1-billion project will eliminate all the intersections along the busy 25-kilometre stretch of roadway, turning what is mostly a 70 km/h zone dotted with major intersections into a free-flowing freeway.

The money will also be spent on widening the Yellowhead to six lanes from 50th Street east to the North Saskatchewan River crossing, and widening Fort Road to six lanes from the Yellowhead to 66th Street.

Close to half the project cost will be covered by the province and the federal governments.

The remainder will be the responsibility of the city, which will borrow $510 million to pay for the upgrades.

To cover the interest on the borrowing, the city will increase taxes by a total of 1.76 per cent, spread over 10 years.

Iveson compared that increase to the cost of a cup of coffee a year for the average citizen.

Deputy city manager Adam Laughlin said the city is still working out the design and in what order the improvements to the Yellowhead will be done.

"As we take on more of these large-scale capital projects, we need to have that conversation up front with council about ... the best way to balance the fatigue that you do get with construction, because it is real, with balancing the movement along the corridor, because it's still a key corridor."

Construction is expected to begin in 2021 and take six years.

About the Author

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.