Edmonton on track for big, safe, vital construction season

Jason Meliefste stepped to the mic at Butler Memorial Park, acknowledged the traditional land on which the news conference was happening, and then shared a city-building story that has been quietly, safely and dramatically taking shape for months—even while the effects of COVID-19 dominate life in Edmonton.

Construction.

“In other years, this might have been so much business as usual,” said Meliefste of a mid-season construction update during a pandemic.

“But this year business as usual is business as unusual. Thanks for joining us here in Butler Memorial Park today, one of 280 active infrastructure projects in the City of Edmonton today.”

Meliefste is the Deputy City Manager of Integrated Infrastructure Services for the City of Edmonton. His team gets things built here. As of June, 94 percent of the City’s capital projects are trending on budget, and 84 percent are on schedule. 

Jason Meliefste at news conference in Butler Memorial Park, August 13, 2020

More important than ever

Building, restoring and maintaining roads, bridges, sidewalks, parks, facilities, LRT and neighbourhoods will help Edmontonians now and in the future live and move and feel at home—and connect to each other, to businesses and to recreation.

The work, which is happening in all corners of the city, is more important than ever, said Meliefste.

“Advancing this work has provided for employment for over 10,000 people that will work directly on these projects,” he said.

📸 Quick tour

Here’s a quick tour of some of what’s on the go for the people of Edmonton.

Yellowhead Trail widening near 50 Street, facing east, August 12, 2020

Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion

Crews have begun widening Yellowhead Trail to three lanes in each direction from 61 Street to the North Saskatchewan River.

As this project continues, residents can expect to see a minimum of two lanes maintained in each direction during daytime hours. Most of the work widening westbound lanes is to be finished by the end of this year. Eastbound widening is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Auger bores hole for drainage pipe casings near beneath Yellowhead Trail, just west of Victoria Trail.

To improve drainage along Yellowhead Trail—and minimize the impact to drivers while doing so—crews are using a giant auger to bore through the earth to place steel casings which will house new drainage pipes. 

The entire Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion is to be done by the end of 2027. Yellowhead Trail is becoming a freeway with three lanes of free-flowing traffic in each direction.

Gantry cranes on Groat Road Bridge, August 12, 2020

Groat Bridge 

The Groat Bridge rehabilitation work is on track to be completed by the end of fall 2020. 

In order to keep the bridge open to traffic during the near-three-year construction, one side was demolished and rebuilt while the other remained in use with one lane of traffic each way.

The pedestrian sidewalk was reconfigured to account for the space needed for construction and the Gantry crane, seen in the pic above.

Rebar installed as deck construction continues on east side of Groat Road Bridge, August 12, 2020

Traffic on the bridge remains one lane in both directions. Off-peak nighttime closures will continue and full daytime closures are planned for the end of September.

The Davies Station on the Valley Line Southeast, near 75 Street and Wagner Road, will feature a 1,300-stall park and ride and a beautiful view of Edmonton’s downtown

Valley Line Southeast LRT 

The Valley Line Southeast will take LRT passengers from downtown Churchill Square to Mill Woods. 

Steel columns and beams that make the structure at the stops and hold the wayfinding signs are being installed along the line. 

Steel in place at Bonnie Doon Stop along 83 Street in July, 2020

The final sets of cable stays are being installed on the Tawatinâ Bridge (seen in the pic at the bottom of the post). 

The Kâhasinîskâk footbridge has been lifted into place over Connors Road and crews continue to finalize the installation. Trains will pass beneath the footbridge.

Here’s a quick look at the fascinating footbridge story: 

Closer to downtown, giant tunnels for the trains are in place.

Workers in Valley Line Southeast LRT tunnel, March, 2020

The Valley Line Southeast is expected to open in 2021.

Meanwhile, work on Valley Line West LRT line is also under way. Much of that work happens underground where a large network of electric, gas, and telecommunications utility infrastructure is located. Utilities in some areas must be relocated to make easy for LRT infrastructure. 

Both the Valley Line West and Southeast LRT will use low-floor urban style trains, which feature step-free boarding. Trains will run with traffic, and much of the lines will have no gates, bells, fences or crossing arms. 

The Valley Line will be an urban-style 27-km line between Mill Woods in southeast Edmonton and Lewis Farms in west Edmonton.

The expanded LRT network will provide more transit options to more Edmontonians, and support Edmonton’s growth into a city of two million people over the next decades. 

Physically distanced crews on site of a community-led (Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues) project to commemorate its100th anniversary, in Hawrelak Park.

Safety is top priority

In all the projects, whether big or small, the commitment to safety—both construction industry best practices and new COVID-19 rules around hygiene and physical distancing—is firm. 

“I want to assure you that we have proceeded safely,” said Meliefste. 

In all the construction work, the City and its contractors are following the requirements of Alberta Health, ensuring construction sites are safe and sanitary and provide adequate space for workers and the public to maintain appropriate physical distance. 

Phase 1 of the Metro Line extension has begun construction

Metro Line Northwest extension

The Metro Line Northwest Extension Phase 1 from NAIT to Blatchford began construction in June. When finished, the extension will connect people to key destinations in the city, such as NAIT, the Royal Alexandra Hospital, major developments including Blatchford and Griesbach, services, shopping, workplaces and the city centre. 

TLC for LRT

Crews took advantage of lower passenger loads earlier this construction season to upgrade the McKernan/Belgravia LRT station

The City’s 40-plus year-old LRT network is also getting maintenance and upgrades to ensure it continues serving Edmontonians efficiently and reliably over the long term. 

In May, the City began major maintenance and revitalization projects to the network. Since then, crews have completed several LRT crossing enhancements and upgraded the McKernan/Belgravia LRT Station Platform.

Stadium LRT station redevelopment is under way

Work has also begun on the Stadium LRT Station Redevelopment project, pictured above, which is expected to be complete by January 2022. The station remains open for LRT customers.

Neighbourhood renewal in Alberta Avenue

Neighbourhood Renewal Program: on time, on budget

Construction work is also happening closer to home. 

The City’s Neighbourhood Renewal Program has also been in full swing this summer with 16 Neighbourhood Renewal Projects now under way, including reconstruction in Highlands, Central McDougall, Alberta Avenue and Grandview Heights. 

More than 100 km of roadway and sidewalk will be completed this year, and more than 10 km of alleys will be reconstructed.

Roadway work as part of neighbourhood renewal on 115 Ave near 127 Street in Inglewood, August 2020

The work is covered by 15 different contracts using seven contractors, each employing approximately 80 to 100 people. 

“This pandemic won’t last forever and it won’t change the fact that Edmonton is still the growing and thriving city that we love, the city we care about and have chosen to raise our families in,” said Jen Rutledge, Supervisor, Building Great Neighbourhoods and Open Spaces. 

“We are building a city that will sustain and support us today and 20, 50 and 100 years from now.”

Meliefste said the neighbourhood renewal work is on track to be completed on time and on budget.

Construction of the Jumpstart Inclusive Playground, August 11, 2020

Open spaces and parks

The construction work is also about building health. 

“Parks and open spaces are vital to a community’s health,” said Meliefste. “These spaces provide places for people to play, gather and celebrate. 

A total of 65 park projects were initiated for construction this year, with 13 already completed and being enjoyed by people of all ages.

One of the most innovative projects is the Jumpstart Inclusive Playground. It will include a playground, pathways, gazebo, picnic tables and lighting development on Clareview District Park with a gift in kind equipment donation from Jumpstart (Canadian Tire).

Rendering of Laurier Park natural playground

The City is currently working to deliver 16 playgrounds, including two natural playground projects at Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Dermott District Park, three spray parks, seven trail realignment or renewal projects, three sportfields and several larger profile parks,  including Kinistaw Park, Beaumaris Lake Park Rehabilitation, Butler Memorial Park Renewal and the Capilano Park Parking Lot Renewal Project. 

Under construction: Granville Playground is located next to Kim Hung School at 1950 Glastonbury Boulevard. It will feature a Hypar Net, Inclusive Revolution Spinner, Generation Swing and DNA Climber with Rope!

The City is also supporting seven community-led projects.

Steve and his pothole crew at work tarring, raking and rolling on 178 Street near 95 Ave, August 13, 2020

Potholes. Count em!

Crews are out actively repairing priority potholes while doing their best to ensure they maintain the required 2 metre physical distance and follow health and safety protocols. 

“I am proud to report that since January of 2020, our crews have completed more than 309,905 pothole and asphalt repairs,” said Eduardo Sosa, Director of Infrastructure Maintenance. “This is an increase of 61,830 potholes from 2019.  Last week alone crews filled more than 12,000 potholes.”

Bridges

During this time, City bridge crews have also been busy. To date, there have been 117 bridge inspections and 107 bridges have been washed. Both numbers already exceed what was planned for this point in the season.

Thank you

Read all about it. Butler Memorial Park, near Stony Plain Road and 157 Street, is being enhanced

Meliefste said the City appreciates how building for the future can be painful for the present.

“It is not lost on us how frustrating construction projects can be for residents navigating their daily commute or for those working from home listening to work happening just outside their homes,” he said. 

“We want to thank you for your patience during this unprecedented time in the sheer number of construction projects in our city, all in the midst of a pandemic.” 

Rome wasn’t built in a day. (And they had milder winters and longer building seasons.) 

Thanks for reading.

Editor’s note: Visit building.edmonton.ca. It’s the City’s enhanced map that provides the updated status on active capital projects. The pic above shows solid progress on the Tawatinâ Bridge, an LRT-pedestrian-bicycle connection over the North Saskatchewan River. Okay, one last pic. Here’s a young fan of construction vehicles on the Valley Line West. The City is building for today, but for the time of all young people in Edmonton, too.