"Rabbit Hill Road congestion driving south end Edmonton residents crazy"

Taken from ELISE STOLTE, EDMONTON JOURNAL Published on: December 10, 2015

"If southwest Edmonton had a swear jar, it would be full and overflowing.

As neighbourhoods south of Anthony Henday Drive swell with new homes and garages, traffic is clogging up the thin north-south corridors to downtown. It jumped by 8,000 vehicles a day over two years at one frustrating pinch-point. But relief may be far down Edmonton’s list of priorities.

“Everybody’s noticed congestion that is getting people yelling, ‘Come on, damn it. Move!’ — whether it’s Terwillegar Drive or Rabbit Hill Road,” said Coun. Bryan Anderson.

“There has to be some kind of a solution. There has to be a national infrastructure strategy,” he said. “Congestion that really pissed you off wasn’t occurring seven years ago.”

Nine of the top 10 fastest growing neighbourhoods are in the south. Windermere alone gained more than 5,000 people in the last five years, and many of those residents get to school and work along already congested north-south corridors.

Anderson just got new figures for traffic on Rabbit Hill Road, which is mostly twinned but has a short section of single-lane road where it runs past the MacTaggart neighbourhood. Traffic jumped to 22,500 vehicles a day on this section, up from 14,500 in 2013. The city standard for twinning is 20,000 vehicles a day and twinning the remaining stretch of Rabbit Hill Road would cost about $4.5 million. But there are so many other needs in Edmonton, this one may have a tough time competing.

Council’s No. 1 priority for new federal funding is the conversion of Yellowhead Trail to a freeway. In southwest Edmonton, all six intersections on Terwillegar Drive are on Edmonton’s need-to-upgrade list. In southeast Edmonton, expanding 50th and 75th streets to six lanes from four and adding under or overpasses for the rail lines are critical. In north Edmonton, an intersection at Manning Drive could help spur development in the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park.

“There’s 66 interchanges that need to be built in the city of Edmonton, that are in the queue. Thirteen are under construction, which leaves 53 that have no engineering done and no money,” said Anderson. The estimated cost for those interchanges is $4 billion to $7 billion.

Anderson recently asked for Rabbit Hill Road to be considered as an easy win — a lower-cost project that would solve a significant pinch point. Administration promised to prepare a capital profile and include it when council debates priorities this spring, when they have a chance to adjust the capital budget.

In the meantime, traffic can back up all the way onto the Anthony Henday. Often, it’s impossible to turn left onto Rabbit Hill Road without lights, said South Terwillegar resident Jai Persaud. “It’s bumper to bumper, car after car after car.”

Rob Gibbard, transportation’s capital planning director, said his staff is working on a new round of traffic counts and analysis to re-evaluate emerging priorities.

“We’ve been attempting to bring forward projects that deal with some of that (south end) congestion,” he said. But when his office last suggested highlighting a key south end demand — an interchange at Anthony Henday and 35th Street — council chose to elevate the more industrial Manning Drive interchange. Those business taxes are seen as key to the city’s long-term sustainability.

“It boils down to conflicting priorities,” Gibbard said."