Redefine Whyte Avenue, starting at Gateway Boulevard

Late in 2020, the City of Edmonton released a concept design for the reconstruction of Gateway Boulevard from University Avenue to Whyte Avenue. Gateway Boulevard is one of the key entrance points to our city and it has functioned as a main arterial road for several decades. It also intersects with Whyte Avenue, Edmonton’s premiere main street. The symbolic “entrance” to Edmonton’s core encapsulates our identity as a city and holds within it our vision for its future. If we are going to be investing in renewal, we need to get this redesign right.

The changes proposed take steps in the right direction. Investing in bollards, benches, and landscaping on the west side of the street helps create a friendlier environment for pedestrians and will support local businesses in attracting customers. Adding an actual sidewalk to the east side of the street is a welcome enhancement for the street and will help fix a missing link identified within our 2019 Missing Links Campaign. You can find the full project here.

However, we’ve heard from our membership and from key partners that we need to go further. If we are investing public resources into improving this space, let’s spend this money right. We must ensure that it reflects the existing policy direction set for Whyte Avenue within the City Plan, planWhyte Land Use Study, and Strathcona Area Redevelopment Plan.

“Narrower lanes, slower speeds, restrictions on turning movements and reductions in parking”

Amiskwaciwâskahikan ᐊᒥᐢᑲᐧᒋᐋᐧᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ Edmonton City Plan
page 126 when discussing efficient use of infrastructure

“Upgrade to pedestrian crossings” and “improve pedestrian safety through upgraded crossings, curb extensions”

Strathcona Area Redevelopment Plan
pages 9 and 55 when discussing objectives and goals of the plan

Although the design takes steps in the right direction, we are still not fulfilling the vision that the community has for this area. Pedestrians will get new benches, but sitting beside a road that is four lanes wide will not be attractive. Those with limited mobility, like seniors, kids, or those who use mobility aids, will still feel unsafe crossing at unsignalized intersections or roadways that are far too wide. Finally, where is the space for scooters and bikes?

To avoid the issues raised above, we’ve identified a few areas of improvement.

Source: Edmonton Journal

Rethink intersections

  • As people who walk, bike, and drive through the intersection of Whyte Ave and Gateway Blvd, we know it feels unsafe to walk, bike, and drive through
    • Providing a phase for active transportation to cross in all directions and a phase for vehicles to cross, like how a scramble intersection works, would increase safety and comfort.
    • This could remove the need for a right turn lane on Whyte Avenue, narrowing the road in an effective way.
  • Also, a senior or a child crossing the intersection of 81 Ave and Gateway would still not feel safe. It should receive more support than just a crosswalk marking (raised, signalization, different pavement treatment).
Source: @BrentToderian on Twitter

Amplify redevelopment in the area

  • More urban and dense development is occurring along Whyte Avenue. We need to make reconstruction decisions that reflect this new urban reality. This means more room for people and less room for people in cars.
  • We need to enhance the opportunity for current and future business’ opportunities to operate a patio or sidewalk sale. Sustaining parking and turning bays creates a structural limitation for current and future businesses to expand onto sidewalks and program the public realm.
  • In the current design, we think we are missing out on creating partnerships with redevelopment already occurring near this intersection to add more programmable space and street furniture to the public realm.
Source: Paths for People

Integrate larger-scale connections

  • We need to think about what we could connect to further south and further north. There is a shared pathway along Gateway Blvd from 65 Ave to 78 Ave, an east-west bike lane that ends on 76 Avenue and Gateway, as well as the bicycle boulevard along 83 Avenue. We should be planning to connect these facilities to enhance cycling, scootering, and other wheeled mobility connectivity.
  • The draft Bike Plan calls for improvements to the Calgary Trail shared northbound bus/taxi/bike lane. We should explore ways to make connections to this future infrastructure.

We’ve shared a lot of ideas for this one specific project. This is based on what we’ve heard from our membership as well as what key partners building and supporting this area have told us. As of now, we haven’t been able to share these ideas with the City and have them influence the process because there has not yet been engagement undertaken for this project. We’re concerned that we’re missing out on an opportunity to get a critical intersection right and set a new vision for Whyte Avenue.

We also know that this specific stretch of road provides one of the most constrained locations and highest demands for moving vehicles. Intersection failure is a concern. Level of service (the amount of time a vehicle waits at intersection before passing) is one way to measure this. We also need to analyze – and in our opinion, prioritize – the experience of those walking and rolling along Whyte and Gateway. If this redesign still fails active transportation from a safety and experience perspective, it fails as an intersection in a vibrant downtown. We need to get this right, or we miss a key opportunity to build a more urban and walkable core.

Source: Paths for People

This is Edmonton’s most vibrant commercial Main Street. We need to make decisions that reflect this context.

We welcome further discussions on this significant infrastructure decision and longer-term changes to Whyte Avenue and other Main Streets in Edmonton.