Public voices LRT concerns
Cost, timeline and mob ties all addressed at open house
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013 06:00 am
Concerns about the cost of building an LRT line through St. Albert, as well as the city’s population, growth, density and even the Mafia, reared their heads at an open house devoted to the subject Saturday.
More than 100 people convened at St. Albert Catholic High School to listen to what city councillors, Edmonton Coun. Don Iveson and a few City of Edmonton employees had to say about the proposal.
St. Albert city council passed last year, as part of the 2013 budget, a $500,000 functional alignment study that would look at where an LRT line would run through St. Albert. It would be planned to build off of Edmonton’s future northwest line, which has not yet been funded.
Council held the open house to explain its position on a future LRT line, as well as to seek public opinion. Most of those who spoke deemed an LRT line through St. Albert as too expensive.
“I’m not sure how we’re going to pay for it,” said Norm Harley, a former council candidate and frequent critic of funding for St. Albert Transit. “There’s no demand for it and no money for it.”
Iveson attended both as a member of Edmonton city council and in his role as chair of the Capital Region Board’s regional transit committee. He said using a regional transit system – and by extension, more LRT lines – crosses many areas of municipal policy.
“It’s a healthy question. It’s also a seniors’ policy question,” said Iveson. “So when you start looking at these things, they’re actually very complicated. That’s certainly going to require participation from the province.”
But the one answer Iveson couldn’t give several people in the crowd when asked was when the northwest line of the LRT – which will run from NAIT to the future Campbell Park Transit Station and Park and Ride – will be built. Edmonton council, he said, hasn’t yet committed funding for the proposed $1.5 billion project.
“I think the next five years are going to be difficult,” said Iveson, talking about the deficits facing both the Alberta and federal governments. “I can’t argue with that in the short-term. So where do we park this when there are funds available in the future?”
Coun. Len Bracko, chairing the open house, said the cost of St. Albert’s future LRT line could be mostly covered through other orders of government – the province’s GreenTRIP fund could cover as much as two-thirds of the cost, while P3 Canada, a federal program that ties funding to partnerships between governments and private enterprise, could cover another 25 per cent. The city could recoup a lot of its costs when the LRT starts operations because it will require fewer buses and drivers.
“International investors are looking for a progressive community that includes mass transit,” said Bracko, tying the LRT to St. Albert’s efforts to attract more non-residential investment. “LRT planning allows St. Albert an advantage in the region.”
Cost and timelines weren’t the only concerns – one gentleman asked Bracko what St. Albert would do to ensure the Mafia weren’t allowed to get involved in building the LRT infrastructure, pointing to both corruption in Montreal as well as the disintegration of infrastructure in that city.
Another man in the crowd replied that will never in happen in St. Albert because our politicians “are 100 times better” than those in Quebec.