Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anthony Henday Drive vs The Perimeter Highway

My job often takes me all over Central Alberta.  This week I have the pleasure of working near Fort Saskatchewan, a city approximately 20 minutes Northeast of Edmonton, with a large industrial base that many companies like Agrium, Dow Chemical, and Shell Canada have massive plants at.  Since I live in the southern part of the Edmonton Census Metropolitan Area, I commute by driving along Edmonton's Ring Road, or what locals refer to as "The Anthony Henday."

The Alberta Government had set aside land to build a Ring Road encircling the city of Edmonton in the 1970's.  For years, only the Eastern section of the Ring Road that ran between Edmonton and the suburb of Sherwood Park was complete.  In the 1990's, the Western leg of the highway was completed.  However, not anticipating the oil boom of the last decade, the Western leg of the Ring Road was built mainly with at grade intersections, similar to Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway.

As the economy began to catch fire, and thousands of people all over Canada were settling in Edmonton, the need to complete the Anthony Henday became a priority with the Government.  In 2006, the Southwest leg of the route, from Whitemud Drive to the QE2 was competed.  A year later, the Southeast leg of the route was completed, linking the West and East sections of the highway.

At this point, the only portion of the road left to be completed was the area north of the Yellowhead Highway.  On November 1, 2011, the Northwest leg of the Anthony Henday Drive was opened to traffic.  You can now by-pass nearly all of Edmonton if you are commuting from the South.  The Ring Road is nearly 90% complete, and looks remarkably similar to old maps of the Perimeter highway of Winnipeg before 1996 when it had yet to encircle Transcona.

Which leads us to an examination of Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway.  The Perimeter was build roughly 50 years ago, as a highways that cars and trucks could travel on to by-pass the city as they traveled east to west  on the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately, the perimeter was not designed as a limited access highway, with nearly 70 points along the highway that are intersected with at-grade roads and rail crossings.  according to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (FCPP), it would cost approximately $440 million to bring the Perimeter Highway up to freeway standards.

By far, the most interesting document in favor of turning the Perimeter Highway into a limited access highway can be found in this document I came across from the FCPP.  The report outlines the advantages of improving the points along the Perimeter to construct it into a modern day freeway.  The main advantages of turning the Perimeter into a limited access highway are as follows:

  • freeways reduce air pollution due to the free flow of traffic, and the limited number of stops along the highway
  • freeways reduce highway injuries and fatalities by 70%, according to the Infrastructure Council of Manitoba
  • freeways prevent the most destructive accidents from occurring due to the design of most North American freeways
  • freeways reduce the commuting time of residents that rely on the highway, making it easier for resident to get from home to work, and vice-versa
  • freeways reduce the stress and congestion on arterial roads that are not able to handle the amount of traffic of a modern day freeway
  • freeways pay for themselves in the long run, in terms of reduced fatalities, congestion, injuries, commuting time, and the alleviation of stress on roads and highways that parallel the route of the freeway

Just imagine if the city could go back in time, and shelf the ill-fated White Elephant Museum Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in favor of much needed infrastructure projects, such as making our Perimeter highway a fully functional limited access highway.

Rail crossing on the Perimeter Highway

Fatal crash (Waverley and Perimeter interchange 2011)

Prototypical "Diamond' interchange

"Cloverleaf" interchange


  1. I would rather see an investment in the Perimeter Highway to bring most of it up to freeway standards, than to build another non-freeway ring road inside the city, which is what the current plan is. Good post.

  2. Very nice post, indeed. I'm liking the diamond interchange, and wonder about compared accident rates between the diamonds and clover leafs (no, I haven't read the linked post yet... but I will, thanks to your link.)

  3. I drove this road everyday when I lived in Alberta, it may be safer but only if drivers are courteous and alert as there are vehicles merging on and off the ramps very close together and at high speeds. The downside is that many people drive 125km's in 100km zones which makes it very dangerous when passing areas that have merging lanes as they don't stop like they do in Wpg. as it screws up the traffic flow.

  4. NJ: Some people do drive faster than the speed limit (just like they do on the Perimeter), but drivers in Winnipeg and Edmonton are essentially the same. There is no evidence to suggest drivers in the Edmonton area are any different than drivers in Winnipeg. Trust me, I've lived in both cities.

  5. Purple Rod: I have also lived both places and still drive in both places, and yes essentially speeders and bad drivers both cause accidents, but there is no evidence to prove that better roads make better drivers. These cloverleaf overpasses mainly allow traffic to flow quickly, shaving off substantial driving time but I have seen many accidents on these due to speed and loss of control. According to police reports Edmonton’s fatality (not accident) rates are down and they are contributing this to new legislature, more enforcement and new driver awareness programs. Cloverleaf’s are great especially for semi truck traffic, but will not fix bad drivers. Cloverleaf’s also take up many acres of land which Winnipeg does not have near most parts of the perimeter.
    Your blog is to convince people that if billions of dollars were spent to improve the perimeter hwy that there would be 70% less injuries and fatalities. This is yet to be proven but better drivers and safer vehicles, ie: tires & brakes, could account for more than 70% less accidents and fatalities.

  6. I never said better roads make better drivers. The research I have done, and the studies I have found indicate that freeway do, in fact, reduce fatalities by as much as 70%. I have even posted a link to the study by the FCPP. I have no idea why you are so quick to discredit it.