Roads & Paving
Big plans for Alberta’s Highway 19
By Andrew Snook
October 24, 2017 – Ever since the opening of Anthony Henday Drive, getting around the Edmonton area is easier than ever. That said, there are still several congested transportation arteries that need to be addressed.
One of those arteries is Highway 19 in Nisku, Alta., a 12-kilometre, two-lane, high volume, high-load corridor that connects Highway 60 and the QEII (Alberta Highway 2) – the major north-south corridor between Edmonton and Calgary. Since Nisku is a major provincial industrial centre, it experiences a great deal of day-to-day traffic. And with the capital region’s population continuing to rise, Highway 19 is in need of significant upgrades.
“A lot of fabrication occurs in Nisku for oil and gas and other sectors of industry, so Highway 19 is a major route for any fabrication facilities going north, south or to the west [of Edmonton],” explains Michael Botros, executive director of operations and program management for Alberta Transportation. “We recognize Highway 19 as a critical piece of infrastructure that provides economic growth in the Edmonton Capital Region. It connects traffic for the Edmonton International Airport (EIA), the Town of Devon, Leduc County, Nisku and the City of Leduc.”
Alberta Transportation identified that the traffic growth meant a need for some improvements along Highway 19, but expanding the corridor is not a simple feat, due to its proximity to the EIA, which is planning on building a new runway in the next 20 years.
“In 2005 we had looked at twinning Highway 19 parallel to its original alignment, but shortly after we finalized the design, the airport approached us and let us know they had a new runway they were planning in the next 20 years or so,” Botros says.
So rather than perform a twinning of Highway 19, only to have to relocate the highway in around 20 years, Alberta Transportation has been working with the EIA to find a solution that would work for all of the stakeholders in the area. Talks are still ongoing on what to do in regards to the highway’s realignment.
“We have gone to two open houses, the airport has reconfigured its runway, and we’ve looked at different highway alignment options to accommodate it, but we don’t know yet if it’s something that will work for both sides,” Botros says. “We haven’t made any decisions on it yet… but the airport and Alberta Transportation are still working on it together.”
Although collaboration with the EIA will assist with long-term planning, Highway 19 has other issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. For this reason, Alberta Transportation decided to turn the twinning of Highway 19 into a three-stage project.
“We looked at what can we deliver to fix some of the immediate issues on Highway 19 while we sort the realignment portion,” Botros explains, adding that he’s hoping that by the time all the Stage 1 and Stage 2 construction is complete, that Alberta Transportation will be able to tender and start working on Stage 3, the twinning and realignment of Highway 19 to accommodate the future runway. “But a lot of things have to line up for that to happen.”
The cost for all three stages of the project is expected to be between $190 million and $200 million.
The first stage of the project is a $25-million contract for the Highway 19 east end limits work, which includes the relocation of EIA’s north access road. This phase of the project, currently being constructed, is being cost-shared between the Province of Alberta, EIA and Remington Development Corporation.
“The east end is a really nice partnership project,” Botros says.
The Province of Alberta is covering 80 per cent of the cost of the project, Remington Development Corporation 18 per cent and the EIA covers the remaining two per cent.
“We’re moving the airport’s north access a little over a mile to a new location, which becomes an access point for the airport and the new development,” Botros explains. “This phase is just under two kilometres in length. Realignment of the new airport perimeter road will include new traffic lights, and will also include access into the development. We’ll also be doing intersection improvements at 34th Street and expanding it to six lanes… the six lanes is to accommodate additional traffic when the development is fully built out.”
Stage 1 has already been tendered and awarded to Carmacks Construction Ltd., which is headquartered in Nisku, Alta.
“It had a little bit of a late start this year with the wet spring and construction commenced in June of this year,” Botros says. “The contract completion is for 2018.”
Grading work has started on the eastbound lanes on Highway 19 and airport security fencing has been moved in areas where job site access would otherwise be restricted.
“We had to do some coordination with the airport because some of the work is on their property,” Botros explains. “We needed to move some of their security fencing to get access to the work; that’s all done.”
The west end limits work for Stage 2 includes two new signalized intersections and construction of new eastbound and westbound lanes, situated to be compatible with the future interchange.
“This one should be relatively straightforward, but there are a significant number of utility relocates that are taking longer than anticipated,” Botros explains. “This stage will be tendered following the completion of utility relocation and land acquisition.”
He says that the additions of the traffic signals will be a big help for improving traffic flow going on and off Highway 60.
“In busy times you can be sitting at the intersection quite a while to make a left-hand turn, but once we put the traffic signals in, it will improve traffic for sure,” Botros says.
Although planning for the final stage has begun, and Alberta Transportation is in regular communication with the EIA, it could still take a substantial period of time before this project goes to tender and Highway 19 becomes twinned between Highway 60 and the QEII.
“There is no timeline on this one because we first have to come up with something that works for everyone involved,” Botros says. “Then, before we can actually make a decision, we have a consultation process that will involve reviewing the project with the public and meeting with affected landowners for feedback. The outcome of this process may affect some of the designs to the highway, runway or both. Then we would do some more consultation and get more feedback and if necessary, make a few more tweaks.”