Interchange revamp set at $280M
Project years away, but price tag already makes councillor nervous
A proposed reconfiguration of Saskatoon’s only cloverleaf interchange would rank as one of the city’s most expensive infrastructure initiatives.
A City of Saskatoon report outlines a plan to revamp the interchange of Highway 11 and Highway 16/Circle Drive to replace two of the circular ramps with new roadways and underground tunnels. The projected cost of $280.4 million would make it by far the most expensive reconfiguration of existing infrastructure.
Taxpayers can breathe a little easy, because the plan is intended for consideration 10 to 15 years from now, when the city expects to close in on a population of half a million people.
City council’s transportation committee was treated this week to a slick video with three-dimensional graphics showing the proposed transformation.
“I think it looks wonderful and it’s the greatest presentation I’ve ever seen,” Coun. Randy Donauer said at Tuesday ’s committee meeting.
“I just get a little nervous of the price tag.”
The proposed cost would place the infrastructure project in rare territory; only the Gordie Howe Bridge project and the current P3 project to build two new bridges are in the same $250-million-plus stratosphere.
Donauer questioned whether the transformation will be necessary, given the provincial government’s plans to one day build the Saskatoon Freeway, previously called the perimeter highway.
The Saskatoon Freeway is slated to loop around the east side of the city so drivers who want to bypass the city can veer off Highway 11 or Highway 16 south of Saskatoon and reconnect with either highway north of the city.
Donauer wondered whether spending so much on an interchange would be worth it if traffic is reduced. Although the province has mapped out the route of the Saskatoon Freeway, there is no start date for the project, estimated to cost more than $2 billion.
The proposed revamp would eliminate the southeast and the northwest cloverleaf ramps.
Motorists travelling east on Circle Drive who want to end up heading north on Highway 11 would connect through tunnels, rather than the existing cloverleaf ramp. The same goes for those heading west who want to head south.
The project would also increase the height of the Circle Drive/ Highway 11 bridge to eliminate collisions with tall trucks, and elevate all the roadways.
Under the plan, Highway 11 between the cloverleaf and Taylor Street would be widened to six lanes from four.
“This would be a significant infrastructure project for sure,” Jay Magus, the city’s acting director of transportation, said in an interview Wednesday.
As well, a slate of short-term fixes to add or extend lanes to increase safety is estimated to cost $15 million.
The Gordie Howe Bridge and connecting roadways cost about $296 million to build.
The cost of building the two new bridges is $252.6 million, although the total project costs $497.7 million, which includes maintaining the bridges for 30 years.
A long-term plan to revamp the interchange of highways 11 and 16 south of the city is slated to cost $280 million.