A massive wildlife and creek crossing that promises to reduce train crossing delays and traffic pressure on the Yellowhead Trail to Aurum Energy Park officially opened this Wednesday.
EDMONTON – “It’s a linchpin in our overall industrial strategy,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson at a grand opening event for the Aurum Wildlife Crossing Bridge Wednesday. The new wildlife crossing bridge and six-lane roadway will connect Edmonton’s Anthony Henday Drive with the northeast energy and industrial area.
The city budgeted $40.4 million for the Aurum road extension project, but Iveson said that the project is under budget and those costs should be recovered through development fees for each lot, and eventually, property taxes in the area.
Infrastructure better connecting the new industrial areas makes growth in the region possible, enabling employment and further investment, Iveson said.
The link will reduce the daily trip by about an hour for about 10,000 workers who will no longer need to rely on the “pinched” Yellowhead, or have to wait at railway crossings, said Ken Mariash, CEO of Focus Equities Inc., the developer behind Aurum.
“It was absolutely critical,” said Mariash.
The roadway stretching from 9 Street NE to 17 Street NE crosses over Clover Bar Creek and a deep ravine. To make room for the waterway for fish and a walkway for deer and small animals to pass through, the bridge utilizes a 21.5-metre-wide concrete culvert.
“The only way for the animals to get back and forth from the river is through the ravine, so we wanted to make sure we didn’t block it. So with a huge opening like that, it will be an easy thing for them to go back and forth,” said Mariash.
Project partner Stantec Consulting Ltd. said it is the largest open-bottom arch culvert in Edmonton.
“This project really challenged our teams in several ways, and we had to rely on a lot of ingenuity and creativity,” said Simon O’Byrne, senior vice-president for Stantec’s community development.
Special piles of brush, stone and large woody debris were added under the corridor to attract more animals, and fish habitat in the culvert will be monitored into 2020.
Aurum Energy Park is connected to several major transportation corridors, including a railway, the east-west Highway 16 connector, Highway 63, the major truck route north to Fort McMurray, a heavy-haul route and Highway 21, a vital north-south commercial transport artery.
Straddling the new wildlife crossing and Aurum Road connection is the Aurum Gateway sector, billed as a future commercial retail hub at the western entrance of Aurum Energy Park.
Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette, provincial transportation minister Ric McIver, and Edmonton Mill Woods Liberal candidate Amarjeet Sohi were also at the grand opening event.