The second phase of St. Albert’s Ray Gibbon Drive twinning project is underway with the completion of a new off-ramp partially paid for by the City of Edmonton.
Phase two encompasses the corridor from north of LeClair Way to north of McKenney Avenue. This phase of the project kicked off in spring of 2021 The city has now finished twinning what will be Ray Gibbon’s southbound lanes, and finished some preliminary work at the Meadowview Drive and Ray Gibbon Drive intersection.
The Meadowview intersection will be completed next year, as well as the twinning further to the Rose Gate entrance, added trail connections, and the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge.
Late in September, the city announced it had completed an off-ramp improvement from westbound Anthony Henday Drive to Ray Gibbon Drive through a partnership with Alberta Transportation, the City of Edmonton, and St. Albert.
Aleks Cieply, St. Albert’s capital projects manager, said the improvement addressed the previously short distance between the old off-ramp and 137 Ave.
“Vehicles had a hard time manoeuvring to get to the correct lane,” Cieply said.
With the pre-existing ramp closed, Cieply said the city has now added a new turn at Anthony Henday and 184 Street, lengthened the left hand turn bay northbound Ray Gibbon drive westbound onto 137 Ave, and installed a turn bay southbound on Ray Gibbon Drive West onto 137 Ave.
Edmonton agreed to contribute $500,000 for the off-ramp, with St. Albert contributing the remainder of about $220,000, Cieply said. He explained St. Albert had approached its regional partner looking for collaboration because the improvements bordered both cities.
“We came up with a financial strategy that worked for both municipalities where it improves the safety corridor for residents of St. Albert while also improving certain turning movements for the residents of the city of Edmonton,” Cieply said.
Addressing wildlife concerns
When phase two of the twinning project began earlier in July, Tony Druett, a board member of the Big Lake Environment Support Society (BLESS) — a nonprofit that aims to conserve the Big Lake wetlands — spoke to the potential for the project to impact wildlife in the area.
Druett noted migration of coyotes, deer, and other animals often cross on this section of the road. However, he said BLESS was pleased the city had listened to their concerns about the project, and adapted accordingly.
These concerns had included the flooding on the portion of Red Willow Trail directly below the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge. This trail floods annually due to water levels from the Sturgeon River and Big Lake.
Cieply noted the city is looking at opportunities to improve the trail in order to reduce flooding, but there isn’t a final design at this point.
“We would like to raise the trail to a maximum potential where we could minimize all flooding, however, we’re also restricted by the underside of the bridge and the height constraints underneath it,” Cieply said.
He noted because of these limits, some flooding will still occur. Construction for the Ray Gibbon Drive bridge is set to begin in Winter of 2022.
An additional component Druett said BLESS was concerned about was potential fencing around the road. He noted the group does not have a concrete position on whether or not there should be fencing, but will be watching how the city implements it.
“It's definitely a very difficult issue that needs to be well considered," Druett said in July.
Cieply said plans for fencing are still in the pre-design phase.
“We’ve installed some wildlife monitoring cameras along Ray Gibbon, and have a few studies going on in the background to look at the quantity of animals and species crossing to determine what the next course of action will be,” Cieply said.
The overall cost of the project is on track to the previous evaluation at $12.5 million, Cieply said. The Ray Gibbon Drive bridge will be an additional construction cost, and is to be determined after the bridge is tendered.
“Between phase one and two, we’re certainly on budget for what was approved by council,” Cieply said.
The second phase of the project is set to be complete by October of 2022, and phase three of the twinning — which includes the area north of McKenney Avenue to north of Giroux Road — is forecast to begin in 2026.