Guide to Yellowknife's 2019 construction season

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After two summers of major roadworks, how bad is the 2019 construction season going to get in Yellowknife? We have the answers, right here.

And the short answer is: call off the Cabin Radio Traffic Chopper. Things should be significantly quieter compared to the past two years.

"The good news," said city administrator Sheila Bassi-Kellett, "is we will have less construction upheaval this year around water and sewer replacement and roads compared to 2017 and 2018.

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According to Bassi-Kellett, those last two summers "were two of our biggest years in the city's history when it came to the number of capital projects related to water, sewer, and paving.

"It will be not at all close to what we've seen in the past two summers," she said.

Wendy Alexander, the City of Yellowknife's engineering manager, added: "In general, we're not expecting huge traffic detours.

"We are expecting that there may be some congestion points, but there are no major detours expected. I'm not going to say they won't occur, but there are none expected."

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That's in stark contrast to last summer, when residents had to handle delays of 30 minutes to an hour or more – practically unheard-of in Yellowknife – as major construction work on one of the city's busiest roads, Franklin Avenue, continued.

At the bottom of this report, you can relive the Cabin Radio Traffic Chopper's debut – streaming live from the sky above the city on May 31, 2018 – in its full glory.

Before that, here's a breakdown of exactly what to expect and where as construction begins this summer.

Franklin Avenue and Old Airport Road

Together forming Yellowknife's busiest traffic artery, these two roads do have some work coming this summer – even if it's nowhere near as disruptive as 2018 (at least, on paper).

Work here will begin with paving on Old Airport Road between Norseman Drive and the left-turn lane at Range Lake Road. That turning lane will be lengthened as part of this, in preparation for the planned fast-food development in the neighbouring lot, which is expected to have some impact on traffic in the area.

The intersection at Byrne Road and the entrance to McDonald's will also be improved.

Paving work at Northlands will be completed, while a right-turn lane onto Old Airport Road will be added at the intersection with Borden Drive, and the entrance to Walmart will be realigned.

Franklin Avenue has some construction work to finish from the recent, major water and sewer main replacement.

However, that work will be mainly in the median and should mean workers only need to close one side or the other at any one time. It sounds like the City doesn't expect massive delays like last year (although, again, engineering manager Wendy Alexander said it's impossible to rule such things out – it depends how the work proceeds).

At the big intersection between Franklin, Old Airport Road, Taylor Road, and Kam Lake Road, the traffic lights are getting an improvement.

There will be new cameras and pedestrian countdown timers, alongside new lights. Alexander told councillors that will mean "an intersection that is dependent on vehicle flow rather than time-of-day programming" – and so, theoretically, easier and quicker to get through.

The Tommy Forrest Ballpark is getting upgrades, including a new building, new washrooms, and a playground.

Forrest Drive will have large dips in the road surface between Reservoir Road and 51A Avenue addressed. That work should start in July (i.e. once school is out, which ought to help traffic management).

Frame Lake

Over on this side of town, there are four different projects taking place.

A park in the Hordal Bagon area of Frame Lake will be built, Calder Crescent finally gets paved beginning in June, Dagenais Drive's water and sewer work will be completed, and then the same road will be paved – including what was dug up last year.

Downtown and Old Town

Things are relatively quiet here.

At City Hall and the neighbouring plaza, there will be upgrades based on the findings of a recent accessibility audit.

There will be work on the 49 Street paving between 49 Avenue and the old visitors' centre building, while the large dip at the corner of 48 Street and 49 Avenue will be repaired.

In Old Town, Bretzlaff Drive will have a push-button crosswalk installed where currently there are only signs, and the causeway could see slope stabilization work begin, although that may end up waiting till winter.

Lastly, at Niven Lake, work to enhance the trail is expected to begin this summer.

There are other improvements planned, such as to the fire hall, sewage lagoon, and reservoir, but the above are the ones mostly likely to affect the average resident.

If anything changes or we get updated schedules for work, we'll let you know.

To watch City of Yellowknife staff present their 2019 summer construction plans in full, head to the video on the City's website and select item three from the list.

Happy driving, biking, and walking this summer! Now, sit back and enjoy the traffic chopper from the height of 2018's construction chaos.

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