Why do we need this freeway?
The City of Saskatoon has undergone significant growth over the past decade. Since 2008, population has increased at an annual rate of about 2.6 per cent from 216,000 to more than 280,000. Surrounding communities have undergone considerable growth as well, which has resulted in increasing demands on local roadways.
The freeway will improve safety by diverting larger commercial vehicles from their current routes in the city and alleviating traffic congestion from busy sections of Saskatoon. This will improve efficiency for producers, shippers and truckers in moving goods to markets.
A new freeway will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion between commercial and light commuter traffic on municipal roads, and also reduce the potential for collisions.
What work was done leading up to the functional planning study?
In 2018, a general location study was completed that determined a corridor for the freeway around Saskatoon, and created a 500-metre-wide corridor in which land development has been restricted until the freeway’s exact location is finalized in this functional planning study. The general location study was endorsed by the City of Saskatoon and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park.
Who is doing the work?
The functional planning study is being compiled by SNC Lavalin, in association with professional engineers with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure.
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 team will be reaching out to all landowners along the route of the Saskatoon Freeway in order to provide detailed information on our planned work. Consultation with landowners will adhere to the following schedule:
- landowners on the northern portion of the route – spring/summer 2019
- landowners on the eastern portion of the route – spring/summer 2020
- landowners on the western portion – spring/summer 2021
During these face-to-face meetings, our functional planning team members will obtain your written permission to let our team onto your land to complete their work. The work will involve soil testing and other non-invasive tests.
When our functional planning team members visit with you in person, they will also provide information about the Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure’s approach to the potential purchase of any land required for the Saskatoon Freeway. 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?
A cost estimate will be included in the functional planning study, which will potentially be one of the largest highway infrastructure projects in Saskatchewan’s history. There is no cost estimate at this time.
When will construction begin? When is it expected to be completed?
Once the functional planning study is complete, the Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure will decide when and/or how to proceed with all or a portion of the freeway’s construction. Currently, there is no timetable for construction.
How will the freeway be built?
The Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure may consider a variety of solutions for construction. This could be a P3 public-private partnership, a design build where the contractor has some flexibility in the design, or the traditional build model where there is a detailed design and construction.
What major highways will have access to the proposed freeway?
The freeway will have connection points to eight provincial highways.
Why was the current route chosen since it runs through a sensitive habitat (northeast swale)?
The route was chosen as there are a limited number of viable locations for a future bridge. Also, it was the highest rated route based on route continuity, compatibility with highway, City and RM networks, ability to meet Ministry standards, staging opportunities, and impact to future developments, existing property (commercial and residential), utilities and the environment.
What measures will be put in place to ensure the protection of rare species, as well as allow for animal movement, and avoid heritage-sensitive areas?
The project team includes an Environment and Heritage Technical Working Group made up of technical experts and interest groups in relevant focus areas. This group is in the process of reviewing previous studies, conducting field studies of the sensitive areas, and evaluating options for avoidance and mitigation measures. Recommendations developed as part of this process will be provided to the Design team to be taken into account in their planning. The Environment and Heritage study results will include recommendations for mitigation measures to reduce potential impacts to rare species and habitats, environmentally sensitive areas and heritage resources and will include recommendations for locations of wildlife crossings.
Have any or will any environmental impact studies be conducted?
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not typically done as part of the Functional Planning Study. An EIA would generally be conducted once the design is finalized so that the project is evaluated based on the finalized footprint and design details. An EIA is generally conducted three to five years prior to construction to ensure that the information remains applicable to construction timelines and environmental features evaluated are representative of what has potential to be present when the project is executed.
The scope of the Environment and Heritage studies conducted during the Functional Planning Study include a high level assessment of the current corridor for the purpose of identifying the best possible route within the selected right of way. In addition, the study 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 (TWG) currently includes the following groups:
- Meewasin Valley Authority
- City of Saskatoon Planning and Heritage branches
- Northeast Swale Watchers
- The Saskatoon Tribal Council
- Wanuskewin Heritage Park
In addition to the TWG, the Functional Planning Study also includes a comprehensive stakeholder engagement/consultation program that aims to capture feedback from a variety of interested parties.
Phase 1 FAQs
Several key stakeholders recently attended a two-day design workshop to discuss the first phase of the proposed Saskatoon freeway.
The two-day design workshop was held to look at the design challenges in the north end of Saskatoon and to come up with solutions to help the Saskatoon freeway overcome these challenges.
Four alternative frameworks for the north section (Phase 1) of the freeway were presented to the group. Each design featured a unique set of advantages and technical challenges. Each was judged by performance criteria and subsequently rated before one preferred framework was agreed upon.
Has the preferred framework been finalized?
No. The highest-ranking framework will now be the focus for further development at public forums this fall where additional input and feedback will be welcomed. We also will be engaging with some stakeholders who are directly impacted – including landowners, First Nations and environmental and heritage organizations (including MVA and WHP).
Why was this framework chosen?
Numerous factors were considered, including highway to highway connectivity, numerous access points to municipal roadways, access to Wanuskewin Heritage Park and optimal interchange spacing. Also, the preferred framework incorporates the City of Saskatoon’s future plans for the north end of the city, identified in their preliminary North Saskatoon Network Planning Study.
How are concerns raised by stakeholders and other interested parties being incorporated?
Concerns are being addressed through ongoing engagements with interested parties including presentations to share information and answer questions, phone calls, face to face meetings and the survey found on the SFFPS website.
Aren’t there environmental studies still underway? How can you make a decision if those are not done?
They will be done before the final report and decision is made in late 2019 or early 2020. When a decision is made to proceed with construction, additional and more detailed environmental studies will be completed.
What will happen during the public consultation you talk about as coming up this fall?
The public consultations are an opportunity to gain the public’s feedback on the preferred framework for the Saskatoon Freeway. The design team wants to understand what additional considerations, concerns or ideas the public has regarding the preferred framework. This input will be considered in future iterations of the framework.
When will a final decision be made on the route and how will it be communicated?
By the end of this year or early 2020, a final decision will be made. The decision will be communicated through our dedicated Saskatoon Freeway website and on social media channels.
What happens after this route is finalized? What about the next two phases?
We will use the same process as we have used this year for Phases 2 and 3, where we engage with specific stakeholders who are directly impacted and then broaden our engagement to include the larger Saskatoon and area general public. All of our work and timelines will be posted on our dedicated Saskatoon Freeway website.