It has been suggested that the Anthony Henday will be a game changer, not only for the Capital Region, but also for the City of St. Albert. Now that the road has been open for a few weeks, let’s examine the potential impact this $1.4 billion project may have on St Albert.
Even before the Anthony Henday opened, developers and realtors reported increased interest in industrial and business parks in St. Albert, citing the fact that these lands are now closer to Edmonton! One developer in Riel Business Park noted that he was able to attract four or five new businesses to his development from Edmonton, accounting for about one half of his total project.
If one looks at the development along the southeast/southwest portions of the Anthony Henday, you can see how quickly development has occurred across this major freeway. New residential, commercial and industrial developments are springing up all along the Henday. There is reason to believe this type of growth will also occur along the newly opened northwest portion.
Most retail business relies on traffic flow and exposure. Although projected traffic counts on the new portion of the Henday were not easily found, the Edmonton City Trends Second Quarter 2010 suggested “that by 2040, traffic volumes are projected to increase by more than 60,000 vehicles per day along most of the length of the Henday. Much of the Edmonton Region traffic growth will be absorbed by this roadway.” This report is projecting that traffic on the Henday will increase by the number of vehicles equivalent to one vehicle for every man, woman and child in St. Albert.
Business and industry located in (or attracted to) St. Albert will have easy access to transportation routes to move their goods or services throughout the Capital Region and beyond. The Henday will reduce shipping time and costs, and allow for easier access to attract employees to work locations in St. Albert. Businesses relying on proximity to an airport can now claim a short commute to an international airport.
The Trans Canada Yellowhead Highway is an important transportation route across Western Canada. On completion of the final leg of the Henday, joining the Yellowhead Highway east of Edmonton to the recently completed stage at Manning Drive, most traffic heading east/west on the Trans Canada Yellowhead will be rerouted right past St. Albert’s doorstep.
The opening of the Henday should be good news for St. Albert; however we have to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. Not only will St. Albert benefit from additional exposure along the route, but so will the City of Edmonton. Edmonton is already developing new industrial parks along the south side of Anthony Henday, in proximity to St. Albert boundaries. New retail shopping centres are already under construction along 127 Street and the Henday. Not only will these new shopping centres attract shoppers from St. Albert and the trading area served by local merchants, it will also attract big box retailers. These retailers will take full advantage of St. Albert’s high income residents, while paying their property taxes to the City of Edmonton. Being located in close proximity to St. Albert, it is highly unlikely these retailers could be encouraged to open another premises within St. Albert.
Just as it is easy for employers to attract employees from the region, the converse is true where employers in the region can attract a skilled workforce housed in St. Albert. This is already a big problem for the city with approximately two-thirds of the workforce already commuting outside the city to find employment.
Yes, the Anthony Henday will have a significant impact on St. Albert. To take full advantage of this opportunity, the city and its business community must be prepared to take bold steps. Time will tell if this impact is positive or negative for the city over the long term.