Construction to begin next year on University Drive twinning

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
October 10, 2018 - 11:48am

LETHBRIDGE – As work nears completion on the extension of Métis Trail, the city is already working on the next major roadway project to help ease traffic problems on the west side.

Project manager Robert Kovacs told LethbridgeNewsNOW in an interview that design work is roughly 70 per cent complete on the twinning of University Drive between the Community Stadium entrance, where it currently narrows, and Sunridge Boulevard. Construction is expected to begin in April 2019 and take until Nov. 2020.

WATCH: Conceptual animation of University Drive twinning project

“That’s still a main arterial, so that will help all the adjacent properties of RiverStone, Sunridge, and of course the Paradise property as well,” Kovacs said. “That will help flow traffic in the mornings, especially, and the p.m. peak when everybody’s going home after work.”

Aside from two groups of trees that had to be removed, other landscaping will not have to be altered because the eventual twinning was taken into account. Kovacs said a major design challenge has been incorporating the existing roundabout at Sunridge Boulevard.

“Even though it’s offset, and it’s not centred in the right-of-way, we have a design, that we’re going to keep that roundabout, keep that centre island, complete with the landscaping and everything and build around that,” he said. “So, it’s been pretty challenging because it’s pretty tight on the west side of it, into Sunridge. But I believe we have a good plan in place to keep most of that infrastructure, and then build two new lanes on the east side of the roadway.”

The most recent traffic counts available indicate 33,800 vehicles use University Drive each weekday on the divided section adjacent to the U of L campus. From the point where it narrows to two lanes, the section between Community Stadium and Macleod Drive/Riverstone Boulevard sees 14,000 vehicles, then down to 11,700 to Grand River Boulevard/Rocky Mountain Boulevard, and 9,100 to Riverglen Link/Sunridge Boulevard.

Kovacs said based on feedback from the public gathered in 2011, the current intersections with traffic signals will not be converted to roundabouts. He admits that sentiments against them seem to have changed since then, however.

“I found, especially when I was doing the Scenic Drive North studies because it’s in their neighbourhood, Legacy especially, those people like the way the roundabouts operate. They’re not waiting and stopping in stop-and-go traffic, and they were actually very accepting and wanted to see roundabouts on the Scenic Drive North portion, there.

“Interestingly enough, I believe there is a shift going on, and people realize the benefits of them.”

The Capital Improvement Program includes $10.4 million in funding for the twinning project.

Meanwhile, Kovacs said design work will take place in 2019, with construction planned in 2020, for the next phase of Métis Trail. The arterial road currently ends at Temple Boulevard but continues as a rural roadway. Kovacs said it will be extended to the new Watermark subdivision.

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