Proposed $280M cloverleaf replacement would be among most expensive projects in Saskatoon's history

A new proposed infrastructure project in Saskatoon has a huge price tag. The project will replace the cloverleaf interchange at Highway 11 and Highway 16, though the work won’t start for another 10 or 15 years.

Project would replace the cloverleaf interchange at Highway 11 and Highway 16, but won't begin for 10-15 years

New Saskatoon Interchange Concept 2:18

A new proposed infrastructure project in Saskatoon has a huge price tag.

Estimated at $280 million, the replacement of the cloverleaf interchange at Highway 11 and Highway 16 will be one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Saskatoon's history, the city's acting director of transportation, Jay Magus, told the city's transportation committee on Tuesday.

It will also take some time — the work won't start for another 10 or 15 years, Magus said.

The price is estimated in today's dollars, so by the time the project is ready to go, inflation will likely push the cost higher.

Other pricey projects for the city include the North Commuter Parkway and Traffic Bridge, both of which are currently on budget at a cost of $252 million; and the Gordie Howe Bridge (previously the Circle Drive South Bridge), which cost an estimated $300 million.

Safety issues, aging infrastructure

Magus said there are several reasons why the cloverleaf project is on the city's radar.

The research is part of the city's plan to support a population of 500,000. The transportation division is looking into several infrastructure issues that would not be sustainable with more people on the roads.

The problems with the cloverleaf interchange are already apparent, though.

"We do get complaints from the residents that they feel unsafe at the top of the ramp, especially where you get on and off Circle Drive," Magus said.

The cloverleaf was designed in 1962, he said, and the amount of space to change lanes when getting on and off the interchange is nowhere near today's safety standards.

Its age is also an issue — 10 to 15 years from now, the cloverleaf will be reaching the end of its lifespan. Putting more stress on the structure is the fact the bridge gets hit "quite a bit" by overheight trucks, Magus said.

The proposed new design for the interchange at Highway 11 and Highway 16 includes tunnels, which is one of the reasons the price tag is so high. (Submitted by City of Saskatoon.)

Part of the reason the cost for the project is so high is because of its physical scope. The area that will need to be reworked stretches along Circle Drive from Preston Avenue to Taylor Street, and the project would include widening Circle Drive from four to six lanes.

The cloverleaf structure would also need to be rebuilt, and the proposed design includes tunnels, adding to the cost.

Plans subject to change

The project is in its very early stages and the plans are subject to change over time.

One factor that may impact the project is the Saskatoon Freeway — the proposed provincial highway that would bypass the city.

Although the freeway could lessen the amount of traffic moving through the interchange, Magus said the City of Saskatoon can't rely on proposed plans from the provincial government.

"We know the Saskatoon Freeway is coming someday, but we really don't know when. So we need to move our plans forward."