'Dangerous and aggravating': Yellowhead Trail upgrade can't come too soon for truckers

The Yellowhead Trail is getting an upgrade — and construction is now slated to begin in 2021.

Close to $500 million will be provided by the federal and provincial governments

One of the many sets of lights along Yellowhead Trail which the City of Edmonton will eliminate when the trail is upgraded into a freeway in 2021. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The announcement of a massive upgrade to the Yellowhead Trail, one of Edmonton's busiest and most dangerous roads, comes as a relief to truckers.

The $1-billion project will turn a section of Yellowhead Trail into a freeway without traffic signals.

Sitting in the cab of a semi-truck Andrew Hunt smiles when he hears the news of the upgrade.

"It's really dangerous and aggravating for anybody that has to deal with the traffic lights and that kind of volume of traffic," he said.

Traffic sits at a standstill on the Yellowhead Trail and 149 Street as drivers wait for the traffic light to turn green. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Hunt fully expected the upgrade to happen, but wishes it would have happened sooner.

The Edmonton-based driver figures he'll be retired by the time construction is actually completed.

The project will begin in 2021 and so will the traffic headaches.

"We'll have to use the Henday as an express route, and when we're making deliveries within the city, we'll have to deal with heavy traffic and backups all the time," he said.

Dave Enns, who lives outside of Winnipeg, has travelled Yellowhead Trail many times.

"With a freeway being put in, it would be such a time-saver," he said Friday while taking a break at a popular gas station for truckers just off the Yellowhead.
Dave Enns take a break from driving his truck route at a gas station near the Yellowhead Trail. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"Safety-wise it would be much better, but it will be quite the project for them to take on."

Enns has come out of retirement for one last job, and figures he won't be driving through when construction starts.

If he does find himself on the Yellowhead when it's a freeway, he'll be driving a vehicle a lot smaller than the semi he's riding on his current trip.

"People have to be in one these trucks to realize what we have to do to stop and start and to try to keep up with traffic and deal with it and the lights," Enns said. "It can be quite a job at times, especially in adverse conditions in the winter."

The federal and provincial governments will commit nearly $250 million each, with the city of Edmonton covering close to $500 million. 

Construction is expected to take six years. The city will spend the next four years buying properties along Yellowhead Trail for expansion.