2017-18 | Wetaskiwin, AB
Main Street is the primary entrance to the historic downtown of Wetaskiwin. In 2017 its road structure, drainage, and other underground services were in desperate need of an upgrade and the work had to be completed within eight months to receive provincial funding. The City turned to McElhanney, asking its team to design as much of the reconstruction as possible given the available time and budget.
McElhanney completely re-imagined the project concept, and designed a solution with better drainage, improved traffic safety, superior environmental sustainability, and far greater aesthetic appeal. Further, the team also brought down the cost to match the funds available and completed the construction in time to qualify for provincial funding.
Rather than an expensive upgrade of downstream stormwater pipes, McElhanney chose to employ a green infrastructure solution in the form of street-side bioretention cells. Compared to the “grey” approach, the “green” approach has numerous co-benefits to the ecology, aesthetics, and, as is becoming increasingly recognized, mental health. Because of the absorption of much of the stormwater into the ground, and the delay to the remaining water from entering the enclosed drainage system, this design approach ultimately reduced peak flows while eliminating the need to extend the existing stormwater collection system.
To create the boulevard area necessary to accommodate the bioretention cell areas, McElhanney saw the opportunity to incorporate traffic-calming to the intersection design by narrowing the road width and using the additional boulevard area to accomodate the concrete-edged, integrated planters and bioretention cells. Further, McElhanney added gentle speed tables at each intersection adjacent to Jubilee Park, thus contributing to pedestrian safety and the tranquil feeling of this entrance to the City, while maintaining adequate capacity for through traffic and curbside parking. By taking this holistic approach to the design, McElhanney combined mutually valuable enhancements to the benefit of drivers, residents, and the City.
The success of the project is epitomized in a report by the City’s Director of Municipal Services, in reference to the 150-year flood in July 2019: “All the streets in the City flooded…except Main Street.” As a result, this project has become a model being followed elsewhere in the City and in neighbouring communities.