History of the Yellowhead Highway: Edson to Edmonton portion
After World War One (“The Great War”, in those days) a railway surveyor suggested that the abandoned railway grade would make a firm foundation for a highway. That idea was adopted by the Edmonton Automobile and Good Roads Association, which began to push for the Yellowhead Highway. Charles Neiymer and Frank Silverthorne began the first automobile journey (in an Overland Four) through the Yellowhead Pass in 1922, reaching Victoria 21 days later.
During the Second World War many Japanese-Canadians were removed from the residences on the coast and relocated in wartime internment camps in other areas. Construction camps at Lucerne, Rainbow, Red Pass, Albreda, and Tete Jaune Cache housed over 1500 Japanese-Canadians, mostly single men. These were assigned to upgrade 30 kilometres of abandoned railroad grade into a truck road and constructed an additional 40 kilometres of new road over steep grades. A total of 19 bridges were built. By 1944 the road between Edmonton and Jasper was open.
By 1969 the tote road had been more or less reconstructed and finally paved. In August of 1970, the Premier of British Columbia , W.A.C. Bennett, officially opened the Yellowhead Inter-provincial Highway.
Edmonton’s Yellowhead Trail and the Henday Drive Bypass
The Yellowhead Highway becomes Yellowhead Trail between Edmonton’s westerly border, 231 Street just before Anthony Henday Trail, and is a busy route across the city until it reaches Anthony Henday Drive in Strathcona County at the city’s eastern border. This route gets a lot of cross-town traffic, and is worth avoiding during morning and afternoon rush hours. Due to heavy congestion, Edmonton outlined a $1 billion plan in late 2016 to upgrade Yellowhead Trail to a controlled-access freeway, eliminating at-grade intersections and constructing new interchanges. Work began in 2019 and is planned for completion in late 2027.
As of mid-2023, Yellowhead Trail east of 50 Street has been widened from two to three lanes, with the interchange at Victoria Trail having been reconfigured. Conversion to freeway standards west of St. Albert Trail is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023, which will see the removal of all at-grade crossings, particularly at 142 and 149 Streets. Access to these streets will be provided by right-in/right-out service roads.
in 2024, work will continue between Fort Road and 50 Street, with the elimination of all remaining at-grade crossings, straightening of the alignment north of the former City-Centre Airport lands, and adding service roads and interchanges at 127 Street, 121 Street and 66 Street.
A suburban bypass of the route was begun in 1971 as Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) connecting Highway 2 to-from Calgary with Highway 16 West. It was finally completed as a ring road when the northeast leg of Anthony Henday Drive opened in late 2016, providing an alternate route through north Edmonton. The province of Alberta has since invested $100 million to expand Anthony Henday from four to six lanes (3 in each direction) so the existing 18 kilometre Anthony Henday expansion will accommodate up to 120,000 vehicles per day.