The Future of Terwillegar Drive

This past February, I brought a motion to Council, which passed with unanimous support, asking Administration to reevaluate their plans for the Terwillegar Corridor in a more pragmatic and holistic way.

City Administration will be bringing forward their response to my motion in the coming days, and will then consult with our community on design options.

Terwillegar Drive was originally conceived as a free-flow freeway with ramps and overpasses.  Because short term reconstruction was anticipated, it was built as a series of temporary roads that would become the freeway on / off ramps.

Decades later, that collection of temporary solutions remains.  It is unsafe. It is inadequate. It needs investment.

The full freeway development of Terwillegar Corridor has been explored three times in the last 30 years - in 2001, 2006 and 2012. Each time, City Council decided a full freeway was expensive, and construction did not proceed.

Now in 2018, we are in a very constrained economic environment, and there are many competing big ticket projects looking for funding.

As Administration presents solutions for the Corridor, and we have that cost discussion again - we will need to consider what we ask City Council to approve later this fall.  


 

There are important points that we must consider as part of the future of Terwillegar Corridor.

Access

A freeway model for Terwillegar Drive could mean losing access.  Due to its proximity to the Henday and its future ramps, Haddow/Terwillegar Towne could lose access to a new Terwillegar Freeway.

 

Imposing Height of Infrastructure

A freeway model could mean overlapping ramps and bridges between 40th Ave and the Whitemud overpass, high above the existing road potentially at the same height as roof lines of the houses backing onto the corridor.

 

Capacity of the Whitemud

Terwillegar Corridor connects to Whitemud Drive, and Whitemud in either direction from there can only handle so many cars at once.  The capacity of Whitemud will not change - it is as wide as it is going to get, at least where it connects to Terwillegar. If Terwillegar is a fire hose then Whitemud is a garden hose. Would a freeway design decrease travel time?  Or would it just shift the traffic jam from our temporary roads to our new ramps?

 

Evolving Technology

We are in the midst of significant technological improvements to our transportation systems.  Smart signals, connected vehicles, and in the future, autonomous vehicles. Other cities have used smart signalling systems to increase road capacity by as much as 40%.  We can’t fully comprehend what these technological advances will mean, but we know change is coming. Our future will include a dynamic, integrated transportation system that will be more than a collection of ramps and overpasses.

 

Edmonton has a Big Budget Problem

In the 2018 Provincial Budget, the province reduced Edmonton’s unconstrained grant funding by $61 million per year from 2018 to 2021.  There has been no announcement to date of what grants - if anything - will be provided beyond 2021.

The estimated cost of the full buildout of a freeway along the Terwillegar Corridor is approximately $1.2 billion.  The estimated cost for an overpass and related improvements at 40 Avenue alone is $115M. By comparison, the City might have as little as $200 million - total, for the entire city, for all four years - to spend on new infrastructure projects.  

In a constrained budget environment, how likely is it that a majority of Council will approve such a large amount of money for this one project?

 


 

Based on your feedback, I know that we have four fundamental goals with the future development of the Terwillegar Corridor:

  • deceased travel times
  • increased volume capacity
  • improved safety
  • responsible use of our tax dollars

So the question needs to be asked: If a freeway design limits access in places …  and results in ramps and bridges near roof lines … and won’t address connecting-road capacity issues ... and may not receive funding …  is that the right design solution?

Should we look at other comparable but less expensive design concepts that still achieve our goals without the negative consequences of lost access and towering ramps?  Should we advocate for a freeway solution that may never gain approval, or for an alternate solution that might finally provide relief to our community?

Our most precious resource is our time.  I want to ensure that the residents of southwest Edmonton have their time with family and friends, at home or at work, to do with what they will. Not sitting in gridlock.  

We need to apply a common sense approach to determine the best way to improve the Terwillegar Corridor.  

An approach that allows for improved commute times as soon as possible with flexibility for future development and technological improvements.  

An approach that makes the best use of your tax dollars to deliver the service improvements we need.  

An approach that will serve as the prudent but effective, nimble and adaptable investment in infrastructure that will be a model to other capital funding decisions.  

An approach that City Council can fully and confidently endorse, so that southwest Edmonton finally sees the infrastructure investment they have been waiting decades for.

I look forward to seeing what Administration presents in the coming days, and I look forward to talking to you about the set of solutions presented as we continue to build this great city.

- Tim