A remarkable construction season is wrapping up for the City of Edmonton with a major reason to celebrate.
The Groat Road Bridge replacement is set to reopen for Monday morning’s commute with all four lanes of traffic and a new, 4.2-metre shared-use path.
“Except for occasional closures off-peak and overnight, this major river crossing remained open to all users throughout the entire construction process. Even during demolition,” said Sam El Mohtar, Director of Transportation Infrastructure Delivery at the City of Edmonton.
The project team did consider the option of a total bridge closure. But that would have taken just about the same time as demolishing and rebuilding while keeping two lanes of traffic open on alternating sides of the deck.
Besides, closing it down completely would have been a major hassle for all bridge users.
Thanks for patience
El Mohtar said the City recognizes the challenges and inconvenience faced by travellers by the loss of two lanes and the former shared-use path.
“It was important for us to maintain this crucial route that leads directly to the University, and into the core and I’m proud to say that our crews did that very successfully,” said El Mohtar.
“We appreciate Edmontonians’ patience as we worked to restore the bridge to its former glory.”
The Groat Road Bridge replacement was unique for another reason.
Crews demolished the infrastructure from the top down, rather than the bottom up, using a Gantry crane. That’s the large yellow beast that moved along the bridge for the last two years, doing work like hauling massive steel girders into place.
A network of work
The Groat Road Bridge was only one portion of the project, which included work on the smaller adjacent bridges at Emily Murphy Park and Victoria Park Road. The project also included renewal roadwork from 87 Avenue to the Groat Road Bridge over the North Saskatchewan River, including the ramps at Emily Murphy Park Road/Bridge and Hawrelak Park.
While the reopening of all lanes on Groat Bridge is imminent, the overall project will be officially complete in a few weeks.
Still to happen is work to remove the river berms, the artificially raised riverbanks under the bridge that give workers a place to work on the piers from. As well, the site will be cleaned up, traffic lanes tied in and signs installed. Some overnight and off-peak closures may be required, but, with four lanes open the majority of the time, the headache is soon behind for all bridge users.
The Groat Road Bridge over the North Saskatchewan River was originally constructed in 1955.
The last major rehabilitation of this bridge happened in 1989. Today’s rehabilitation work will extend the bridge’s service life by at least 50 years.
280 capital projects in every corner of Edmonton
The projects overseen by the City this construction season boosted Edmonton’s economy at a crucial time. These projects created direct and indirect jobs for more than 10,000 people from the Edmonton region.
Additionally, the City worked with over 300 Edmonton-based companies in delivering these city- building projects.
As of October, 93 percent of the City’s capital projects are trending on budget, and 81 percent are on schedule.
An additional duty this year was building safely (not new) in a pandemic (very new).
Through it all, The City Plan continues to be a guide. Edmonton is maintaining, planning for and building for another million more people. That’s work to be proud of.
Here’s some more of that work.
Construction 2020 highlights
Phase 1 construction of Imagine Jasper Avenue from 109 Street to 114 Street is on schedule. The Imagine Jasper Avenue project will revitalize the roadway from 109 Street to 124 Street, creating welcoming spaces and maintaining access for commuters. The project team is working quickly to reopen the westbound lanes to traffic in the coming weeks.
The first stage of the Terwillegar Expressway project is underway with pregrading and earthworks. This project will improve vehicle capacity, reduce congestion and delays and improve the accommodation of transit users, pedestrians and cyclists. Construction of the main roadworks is anticipated to begin in spring 2021, for completion by winter 2022.
The Scona Road/Saskatchewan Drive Intersection Improvement work began in the spring and was completed in September. This work included the reconfiguration of the intersection to a single-stage pedestrian crossing with more visible pedestrian waiting locations and maintained the right turn eastbound to southbound.
Work on the Ellerslie Road Widening project will be substantially completed by the end of this year, with the potential of seasonal landscaping work being completed in the spring of 2021.
The Neighbourhood Renewal Program is about to wrap up renewal in 10 neighbourhoods this season, with alley work occurring in 3 Edmonton neighbourhoods. This construction has progressed largely on time and on budget. The program will continue to advance with planning and public engagement for neighbourhoods scheduled for work in 2021-2023.
The Yellowhead Trail Freeway Conversion Program saw a significant milestone in 2020 with the start of construction of the first section of Yellowhead Trail widening between 50 Street to the North Saskatchewan River. Construction proceeded so well that some work scheduled for 2021, including work on Victoria Trail and the start of widening on eastbound lanes near 50 Street, started this year. The site is now being winterized. While drivers may see some on-site monitoring and maintenance activity over the winter, there are no further planned lane closures until work resumes in 2021.
In LRT, crews have completed a number of major maintenance and revitalization projects this season, including LRT pedestrian crossing upgrades, Capital Line track replacements and platform renewals.
The Valley Line Southeast LRT saw extensive construction progress this year. The deck of the Tawatinâ Bridge is now complete, with work to start on the underslung pedestrian walkway in the coming months.
The main LRT network transfer point—the Churchill Connector building in Churchill Square—has risen up out of the ground. This is the view of it from inside the new Stanley A. Milner Library.
The Gerry Wright Operations and Maintenance facility has begun limited operations, and the full fleet of Light Rail Vehicles (LRV) is expected by the end of year, with 18 of 26 having arrived earlier this month. The project isn’t quite on the timeline where the City had hoped it would be, but 2020 was a very productive year so far. An equally busy winter on the project is ahead with LRV testing beginning.
The Valley Line Southeast is expected to open to the public some time in 2021.
Work continues on the Metro Line Northwest LRT Phase 1 extension into Blatchford, which is scheduled to open in 2024-2025. This year, crews installed underground sewer, storm and electrical infrastructure.
The City made significant progress on utility relocations for the Valley Line West, as well as preparing the route for construction by completing necessary building relocations. The project continues its preparations for full construction to begin in 2021.
The Mill Woods Transit Centre is almost complete and is expected to open in spring 2021. Work focused on constructing the transit centre building and covered walkway, reconfiguring the existing parking lot, reconstructing access roads, building the busway and adding landscaping. The new transit centre will offer a closer connection to the future Mill Woods Stop on the Valley Line LRT.
TLC for LRT
Edmonton’s 40-plus year-old LRT network needs upgrades and maintenance to ensure it continues serving Edmontonians efficiently and reliably over the long run.
Crews have completed a number of major maintenance and revitalization projects this season, including LRT pedestrian crossing upgrades, Capital Line track replacements and platform renewals.
Work continues on the Stadium Station Redevelopment, with crews removing the east roof canopy earlier this month. The project is expected to be complete in early 2022.
Through the City’s Rehabilitation Program, eight major facility rehabilitations were completed this year without major disruption to services. The work included bringing mechanical and electrical systems up to date, reducing energy costs and adding another 15 to 20 years to the life spans of the facilities. Receiving this proactive maintenance were: Richard Paterson Transit Garage, Mitchell Transit Garage, Ferrier Transit Garage, Percy Wickman Transit Garage, Centennial Transit Garage, Westwood Mobile Equipment Services, EPS Westwood Renovations and Westwood Central Services.
Several Blatchford community milestones occurred this year, including Blatchford Renewable Energy connecting homes to its District Energy Sharing System, which provides heating, cooling and hot water from renewable energy sources. The first residents have moved in and Blatchford’s home builders are planning for their show home openings
The construction of stage one continued, featuring the completion of the community’s first park with a playground, fruit orchard, community gardens and plaza space.
Blatchford is also the recipient of this year’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainable Communities – Neighbourhood Award. The community was recognized for its sustainability initiatives in the energy, water, waste and transportation sectors.
Construction for the Muttart Rehabilitation project is ahead of schedule and will be completed this year. The rehabilitation work included the replacement of the complete HVAC system for the facility, replacement of all major electrical equipment, as well as architectural improvements to enhance the overall user experience.
The plant collection received top notch care throughout construction.
This year also saw the grand opening of the renewed Stanley A. Milner Library. The revitalized space includes a children’s library that is three times the size of the former space, a 930-square-metre Makerspace, a multi-storey interactive digital wall and Thunderbird House, which is an Indigenous gathering space.
Construction for the Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium is complete and the facility is ready for use. The restored Planetarium—the first of its kind in Canada—is an important community gathering place and a vibrant cultural hub for science and astronomy. The City’s partner, Telus World of Science Edmonton, is arranging for equipment installation to support the planned programming.
We completed two new art spaces in the Quarters this year with Ociciwan Contemporary Art Centre and CO*LAB, as well as Kinistinâw Park. These spaces will support the arts, embrace the diversity of the area, and add amenities to support the community in the downtown Quarters.
In addition to building new parks, the City is working to renew and improve existing park spaces including Butler Memorial Park, which will support the continued revitalization of this area.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier also saw the construction of a new naturalized playground located in Laurier/Buena Vista Park and was inspired by the flora and fauna of Edmonton’s renowned river valley.
The Jumpstart Inclusive Playground, located in Clareview District Park, was also completed this year and accommodates physical, cognitive and sensory disabilities in a space where all children can play side-by-side. The playground is a partnership between the City of Edmonton and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
Building Edmonton everyday
As temperatures drop, the City is wrapping up what Edmontonians may refer to as construction season. But the work of city-building is never-ending. Ongoing work includes regular and year-round maintenance, construction activities, life cycle assessment, and project planning and engagement opportunities.
Building Edmonton map
The Building Edmonton map keeps City Council, residents and businesses informed on the status of City-led construction projects.
For more information visit building.edmonton.ca.
Editor’s note: The pic at the top of the post, courtesy Graham Construction, shows the Gantry Crane in action on the Groat Bridge.