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