The City of Edmonton proposed a project to convert the Yellowhead Trail expressway located in northern Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to a freeway without traffic signals.

A 25km portion of Canada’s Highway 16, the Yellowhead Trail is a six-lane corridor that witnesses traffic volume of up to 81,000 vehicles a day, 20% of which are transport trucks.

The conversion project is part of Edmonton’s Transportation Master Plan to efficiently move goods and services along the section, as well as improve traffic flow and safety at the accident-prone locations on the expressway.

The project received federal funding of more than $1bn in December 2016, $241.6m of which is being contributed by the federal and provincial governments of Alberta, while the remaining will be funded by the City of Edmonton.

With the funding in place, the project is ready to move to the detailed planning design phase, which will also include consultation. Construction on the project is expected to start by 2021.

Background details of the expressway conversion project

Initiated as a result of the Yellowhead Trail Strategic Plan, the Yellowhead Trail conversion project was approved by the City Council in November 2011. The plan aims at developing the expressway into a future freeway to ensure easy movement of goods across the city of Edmonton, which will improve regional economic activity.

Being designated as a 24-hour truck route and dangerous goods route, the expressway currently experiences significant traffic levels, which is expected to increase two-fold to more than 110,000 vehicles a day by 2044. With the current traffic signalisation and configuration, the corridor will not be able to handle the projected growth, which will exceed its capacity in the coming years.

As a result, the project’s strategic plan proposed the conversion project in order to improve access and mobility along the corridor.

Details of the Yellowhead Trail freeway conversion project

The proposed conversion plan will retain the corridor as a six-lane road while upgrading it to a freeway. The project will include the addition of service roads and interchanges, as well as the closure of several intersections.

The existing interchanges at Fort Road and St. Albert Trail Road will be modified, while new interchanges will be added at 127 Street, 121 Street and 149 Street. Existing interchanges at Vitoria Trail Road, 50 Street, 82 Street, 97 Street and 156 Street are also planned to be modified.

Construction stages of the Yellowhead Trail freeway conversion

The project is planned to be implemented in five stages. The concept plan for stage one improvements has been approved.
The stage one improvements will see the closure of access to the corridor at 67 Street north and south, and 68 Street north and south, and closure of all direct access roads to the corridor from all alleys and driveways between 66 Street and 68 Street. Access to the 62 Street from the corridor will also be closed.

The stage will also include access management at 89 Street, which will see the closure of access to 89 Street and service road from the corridor while maintaining the pedestrian access at 82 and 97 Streets.

Stage two of the project, whose planning is underway, will see the modification at 149 Street interchange.

Stage three will include the modification at 127 Street interchange, which will see the construction of a new interchange and modifications to St Albert Trail interchange. It will also include the closure of direct access to the corridor from 130 Street, 126 Street, and 124 Street. It will also provide alternative access to surrounding properties.

Stage four of the transformation project will include modifications at 121 Street interchange. It will also see the construction of a new interchange at the street and closure of direct access at 107 Street, and create alternate access to surrounding properties.

The fifth and final stage of the project will take place at Fort Road/Wayne Gretzky Drive Interchange. It will include modifications to the existing interchange at the drive that will help in accommodating the projected traffic on the corridor.

The stage will also include the closure of the 66 Street intersection, construction of a new road to the street to Fort Road, removal of existing traffic signals and creating alternate access to surrounding properties.

Benefits of the Yellowhead Trail transformation project

By removing intersections and by increasing the capacity of the corridor, the project will clear bottlenecks, which are currently impacting the traffic flow of both commercial and passenger vehicles. Besides improving the flow of traffic, the changes will also improve driver safety by reducing collision rates.

It will improve the transportation of goods to local, national and international markets, promoting continued economic growth throughout Western Canada.

Traffic delays will be significantly reduced in both eastbound and westbound directions while emission will also be reduced.