Franklin rebuild on schedule despite record rains, says city

by Brendan Burke - June 28, 2018

Construction along Franklin Avenue is on schedule despite recent record rainfalls, says the city.

“Despite the rain we are on track with the Franklin construction,” stated communications and economic development officer Stephanie Vandeputte in an email Wednesday.

From detours to bumpy, pothole-filled rides, the NWT Construction Ltd-led project, which broke ground in late May, has caused headaches and congestion for commuters traveling along the city’s main artery.

A stretch of the busy roadway, between Forrest Drive and Gitzel Street, was closed to traffic for three weeks before reopening on June 23. But the reopened area only hosts limited traffic as road work continues, reduced to single lanes for north and southbound vehicles.

Adding to commuter chaos and traffic-induced tardiness, unusually wet weather of late has turned the construction zone into a muddy mess.

After Yellowknife was on the receiving end of a 32.6 millimetre walloping of rain on June 11 – dwarfing a same-day record set in 1998, according to Environment Canada – construction crews were forced to temporarily shut down northbound lanes for a few hours.

“ … the road eroded significantly with deep potholes developing,” stated Vandeputte.

But despite persistent downpours and the swamps they’ve left behind, uncooperative weather hasn’t put a damper on the construction’s completion timeline.

Contractor crews are out working today (and other rainy days), and as far as we are aware the rain has had no impact on completion dates,” stated Vandeputte.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
To make room for new lanes and a multi-use path, crews are narrowing medians between the Fire Hall and Gitzel Street, uprooting plants and trees in the process. But a spokesperson says the loss of green space will only be temporary.

Vandeputte said the project is still expected to wrap up in October.

While that’s good news for Yellowknifers, drivers will still have to grin and bare reduced lanes and narrowed traffic on Franklin Avenue until completion.

Since construction began, speculation has swirled around the fate of medians – dotted with trees and greenery – that sit along Franklin between the Fire Hall and Gitzel Street.

According to Vandeputte, the medians aren’t going anywhere, but will look a little different once construction is complete.

The renewed road will still feature a median. The existing median will be narrowed, allowing for two lanes in either direction and a new three metre-wide multi-use path,” stated Vandeputte.

One median near the fire hall has already been torn up, but will be reshaped to smaller size to make room for the new lanes and the multi-use path.

The path or extended sidewalk, set to run from Old Airport Road to Gitzel Street, will “allow for all modes of active transportation,” including bikers, pedestrians and strollers, stated Vandeputte.

Brendan Burke/NNSL photo.
The construction of a widened, multi-use sidewalk, seen here, will join an existing path on the opposite side of Franklin Avenue, stretching down to Gitzel Street. The path is meant to give space to cyclists, pedestrians and stroller-pushers alike.

Any existing trees situated along the median will be uprooted to make way for the new arrivals, but Vandeputte said the loss of green space won’t be permanent. The city is mulling what types of plants to refill the medians with once construction has wrapped up.

There are two separate construction projects currently underway in the Franklin Avenue area. The first dubbed, “Franklin Avenue Phase 1 a& 2,” resulted in the three-week long road closure on Franklin, with crews working to install a new sanitary sewage pipe which crosses from one side of the road to the other.

Ongoing asphalt resurfacing between Norseman Drive and Old Airport Road is a separate contract, but is a continuation of the paving on Franklin Avenue, according to the Vandeputte.

The undertakings are just some of the many construction projects set for the coming months, including paving plans for Finlayson Drive, Lamoureux Road and Calder Cresent.