Why do we need this freeway?
The City of Saskatoon has undergone significant growth over the past decade. Since 2008, the population has increased at an annual rate of about 2.3 per cent: from 214,000 people to more than 270,000 people. Surrounding communities have undergone significant growth as well, which has resulted in higher demand on existing roadways.
The Saskatoon Freeway will improve safety by diverting larger commercial vehicles from the City of Saskatoon and alleviating traffic congestion from busy sections of the city. This will improve efficiency for producers, shippers and truckers in moving goods to markets. Greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles will be reduced by improving the flow of traffic and reducing congestion.
A new freeway will improve safety for road users by removing a lot of highway traffic from municipal roads.
What work was done leading up to the functional planning study?
In 2018, a general location study was completed that determined a 500-metre-wide corridor for the freeway around Saskatoon; this study was endorsed by the City of Saskatoon and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.
Who is doing the work?
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure is completing the functional planning study with our consultant team of SNC Lavalin, AECOM and Praxis.
I own land within the route that will be part of the functional planning study. How am I impacted? What should I do?
Members of the functional planning study team will be reaching out to all landowners along the route to provide detailed information on planning work. Consultation with landowners is anticipated to follow this schedule:
- Landowners on the northern portion of the route (Phase 1) –work was completed in the second half of 2019 and early 2020
- Landowners on the eastern portion of the route (Phase 2) – spring/summer 2020
- Landowners on the western portion (Phase 3) – spring/summer 2021
During these meetings, team members may make arrangements to access your land to complete their work. The work will involve soil testing and other non-invasive tests and data collection.
When team members meet with you, they will also provide information about the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure’s approach to the potential purchase of any land required. To learn more about that process, visit Buying Land for Highway Construction.
How much will the whole Saskatoon Freeway project cost, and where will the money come from?
There is currently no cost estimate; this will be developed as part of the functional planning work. Funding for construction will be determined by the provincial government..
When will construction begin? When is it expected to be completed?
Once the functional planning study is complete, the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure will decide when and how to proceed. Currently, there is no timetable for construction. At a minimum, construction is not expected to start for 10 years, based on current population projections for Saskatoon and area.
How will the freeway be built?
The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure may consider a variety of solutions. This freeway construction project could be a P3 public-private partnership, a design-build where the contractor has some flexibility in the design, or the traditional design-bid-build model.
What major highways will have access to the proposed freeway?
The freeway will have connection points to eight provincial highways. See the map for an overview.
Why was the current route chosen since it runs through a sensitive habitat (e.g. Northeast Swale)?
There are a limited number of viable locations for a bridge to cross the South Saskatchewan River. The location of the freeway is optimized to achieve maximum benefits for all road users at the lowest cost. If the freeway is moved further north, cross city travel and rural usage declines while the cost increases. Other factors that were considered include:
- Continuity with Highways 11 and 16 (national highways)
- Compatibility with City of Saskatoon and RM of Corman Park development plans
- Compatibility with Highway 7 national highway)
- Impact on utilities
What measures will be put in place to ensure the protection of the Northeast Swale and Small Swale, and avoid heritage-sensitive areas?
An Environment and Heritage Technical Working Group – which included representatives from the Meewasin Valley Authority, Northeast Swale Watchers, and the Wanuskewin Heritage Park for Phase 1 – has worked with the functional study design team to review previous studies of the Northeast Swale and also commissioned new field studies of sensitive areas over multiple seasons.
The Northeast Swale Watchers chose to resign from the working group at the end of Phase 1.
Looking ahead, recommendations currently being developed by the working group will include options for environmental impact reduction, avoidance and mitigation.
Mitigation measures may include:
- Large drainage structures
- Water quality features
- Noise attenuation
- Specialized lighting
- Animal detection
- Intelligent transportation measures
Will an environmental impact assessment be conducted?
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not typically done as part of a freeway functional planning study. An EIA would generally be conducted three to five years prior to actual construction, during the detailed design phase – this allows the project’s environmental impact assessment is timely and relevant, and is based on the freeway’s finalized footprint and design details.
Some other environment and heritage studies will be conducted in each phase of the functional planning study, including:
- A high-level assessment of the current 500-metre-wide corridor
- Wider buffer areas to identify the best alignment and right of way
These studies will identify areas requiring specific design or mitigation measures to reduce impacts.
Will environmental interest groups and Indigenous communities be engaged in the planning stages?
The Environment and Heritage Technical Working Group includes the following groups:
- Meewasin Valley Authority
- City of Saskatoon Planning and Heritage branches
- The Saskatoon Tribal Council
- Wanuskewin Heritage Park
In addition, comprehensive stakeholder engagement and consultation is underway that captures feedback from other stakeholders and the general public. This includes input from the Northeast Swale Watchers, who chose not to remain on the working group at the end of Phase 1.
Why is there no southwestern component of the Freeway? Why isn’t this being designed as a ring road that goes all the way around Saskatoon?
Traffic studies indicate a southwestern leg of the freeway would not be well-used by truck or commuter traffic. The additional construction costs cannot be justified.