City, Contractor try to Treat a Case of Congestion

Edmontonians are used to navigating through and around construction work. But one intersection has become a flashpoint for driver angst
Stony Plain Road and 142nd Street

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If there is one thing Edmonton drivers are used to, it’s seeing orange construction signs and having to navigate through makeshift lanes marked out by pylons. Having to deal with lane closures, road closures and detours is a way of life.

And, with LRT construction heading south and wrest from downtown, many neighbourhoods have had to deal with major road-construction issues. None of this should have come as a surprise, as these projects have been in the planning stages for years.

But, if you commute to and from the west end of the city along Stony Plain Road, you will have seen the unwieldy reduction of lanes at 142nd Street. It has placed stress not only on the intersection, but on surrounding roads for several blocks.

Marigold Infrastructure Partners, the contractor for Valley Line West LRT, reduced the lanes on Oct. 14, creating a pinch point at the heavily used intersection. It caused gridlock. Adjustments were made after the first week, which has alleviated some of the morning stress on drivers heading eastbound into the city.

"Generally, Marigold has been quite quick to respond to concerns, including at this location on SPR/142nd Street." - Coun. Andrew Knack

“In the original configuration, there was only one dedicated northbound straight through lane at the intersection, with only a few motorists using the left turning lane,” said Brad Baumle, Construction Manager for Marigold. “This caused significant congestion. Once we heard concerns from the public, we worked quickly to update the configuration. The configuration was updated by October 21 to two dedicated northbound straight through lanes at the intersection, reducing congestion. We encourage the public to continue to share their feedback, and we’ll work to make adjustments where we can to improve the experience for all road users.”

“After the changes were made at this location, I haven’t received new concerns about this location and having used it myself last week after the changes were made, it seems to be flowing a lot better than before,” Coun. Andrew Knack wrote in an email to Urban Affairs. The Stony Plain Road portion of the LRT construction is located in his Nakota Isga Ward.

“Generally, Marigold has been quite quick to respond to concerns, including at this location on SPR/142nd Street. There are LRT working groups set up along the entire route which allows the City and Marigold to have regular conversations with community leagues and other community members about the work that is happening.”

The Oct. 21 reconfiguration has had a positive effect on eastbound traffic in the morning, But, in the westbound afternoon rush, a combination of factors has led to gridlock.

The intersection comes right after two westbound lanes of traffic on 102 Avenue merge with two lanes of traffic on Stony Plain Road. After that merge, all of those lanes of traffic are condensed down to one lane due the construction work.

The long wait times have led to shortcutting through the residential streets of the neighbourhood. Illegal left turn signs are treated as suggestions. The hotbed of illegal activity is between 4 and 6 p.m. Left turns from Ravine Drive onto 142 Street are illegal but, on Wednesday afternoon, a line-up of 12 vehicles waited to make that turn.

Marigold says the intersection will be impacted by construction until the spring of 2023. Ironically, it’s being done to widen Stony Plain Road so it can handle the demands of vehicle drivers and LRT users. The City says that “pedestrian access will be maintained, however detours may be in place.”

“The City and Marigold worked together to address public concerns about the intersection to facilitate traffic flow while maintaining public safety,” said Chris Gentile, the City’s acting Director of the Valley Line. “We’re pleased to see the initial public reaction to the new configuration has been positive. We know disruptions related to Valley Line West construction can be frustrating. We appreciate the public’s patience as we build the transformative infrastructure Edmonton will need as we grow into a city of two million people.”