Christian school stands in way of construction route





The province and a private company will soon build the northern leg of the city’s ring road project, but they need to buy a Christian school to make it happen.


By 2011, motorists will be able to drive on free-flow lanes with no signal lights on Anthony Henday Drive as they speed between Manning Freeway and Yellowhead Trail.

But the Newman Theological College, a Catholic training centre, stands in the way of a planned alignment between the ring road and St. Albert Trail.

“It’s not like it’s possible for them to stay there,” said Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette. “Their way of doing things may not match real well with a road going right beside them, and that’s going to be a fairly busy road with high speed.”

Catholic Archbishop Richard Smith has been in talks with the province, but he’s currently on leave and not expected back in the city until next week.

“We are in negotiations with the government to buy our land, but that’s all I can say at this point,” said Rita Strauss, an executive assistant for the archbishop.

The northern ring road, announced yesterday by Premier Ed Stelmach, will be built through a public-private partnership, or P3, that will hand over long-term maintenance of the freeway to a private company. In return, the province gets the road for less money and two years earlier than conventional construction.

But Stelmach refused to give an estimated price tag for the mega-project, leading opposition members to speculate that it could cost more than the $800 million already spent on the southern portion of the freeway.

“There’s a bidding process in place and I can’t jeopardize the taxpayers in terms of throwing out a number,” Stelmach said.

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason quickly attacked the idea of building the road with a public-private partnership, saying that it may lead to shoddy construction and actually cost more in the long run.

“They’re keeping their calculations secret and claiming that these projects are saving money,” he said of the Stelmach government. “In our view, P3s are designed to transfer taxpayer money to the corporate friends of the provincial government.”

The ring-road contract will be awarded in 2008 with construction expected by the spring. Transportation experts expect a fully completed ring road to encircle Edmonton by 2015.

Just the northern leg

  • A school stands in the way of completion of the northern leg, above, part of the city’s ring road project.