Winter is coming, but the end isn’t in sight for construction season.
In what Dennis Kefalas, direct of public works and engineering for the city, calls a record breaking year for construction, some projects may lag on for most of October.
“It’s been an extremely busy year,” he said.
The city tackled numerous projects this summer thanks to federal money. Kefalas estimates that Yellowknife received between $13 and $15 million from the federal government for infrastructure improvements. But that cash came with strings.
“You had to do a regular program and then add stuff from future years to this year,” he said. “The reason we have to do this is because the federal government said we have to spend all their money by the end of next year, so that’s why it’s all crunched into a two-year period.”
The city also contributed cash, to the tune of between $15 and $16 million, estimates Kefalas.
Since May, the city has been paving 51 and 52 Avenue, including replacing the asphalt, the sidewalk, the curb, the gutter and the street lights; paving and installing a sidewalk and gravel between 54 Street and Rycon Drive; adding three metres of asphalt pathways, replacing roadway asphalt, and installing street lights and a concrete curb to Kam Lake Road; installing new traffic signals at the intersection of Finlayson Drive and Kam Lake Road and a new bus pull-out on Finlayson Drive near the Dusseault Court bus stop.
The city has also been doing water and sewer work from Range Lake Road along Williams Avenue and Beck Court; Finlayson Drive between Cinnamon Court and Hordal Road; Forrest Park Drive, Calder Cresent; Lamoureux Road and Franklin Avenue between Norseman Drive and Reservoir Road.
“We didn’t discriminate this year – we made sure construction happened everywhere, so everyone was being impacted. Everyone’s in the same boat,” said Kefalas.
He added some projects are on schedule and some slightly ahead, but others are lagging behind.
Particularly, the construction on Franklin Avenue is delayed and won’t be completed until around the third week of October.
He says the work was already supposed to be completed.
Harkirat Randhawa, who works at Mac’s convenience store on the corner of Forrest Drive and Franklin Avenue, has had a front-row seat to the daily traffic jam.
“It kind of sucks,” he said. “From around 3:30 p.m., to 5:30 p.m., it’s going to be lines all the way to the lights.”
He said the construction has affected business, with more people taking alternate routes, including people towing boats because there wasn’t space for them to turn.
“I want it to get done faster,” said Randhawa.
Kefalas said hopefully the project will be done before the weather turns but if it isn’t, the trenches will be backfilled, with normal two-way traffic resuming until work can resume next year.
“We would have to see where we’re at and then either push harder or stop the project and just kind of mothball it to the following season,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can and we’re pushing hard.”
Randhawa isn’t so sure.
“I don’t see much work getting done,” he said.
The contracts have been awarded to RTL, NWT Construction Ltd., and ACE Enterprises Ltd. Kefalas said while some may have capacity to bring on extra crews, they all have to conform to safety standards.
“You have to be cognizant that you can’t burn the guys out, there is a safety issue involved with how many hours they can work,” he said.
The construction will continue into next year, with several projects started this year entering their next phases.