LRT is a dog that won't hunt
Saturday, Mar 02, 2013 06:00 am
The St. Albert Taxpayers Association was formed early in 2008 in response to the debacle that was Servus Place. We objected to the way the plebiscite approving Servus Place was crafted, and to the appalling construction and operational costs. Servus Place was promised to us as a healthy, money-making venture for the City of St. Albert, but it turned out to be a great white elephant.
Now, five years later, St. Albert is poised to embark on another project that seems filled with promise, but is likely to end up with taxpayers left holding the bag. I refer, of course, to the proposal now before Council that the City spend $500,000 of our money, plus administrative salaries and overhead, in studying whether it’s feasible to build a Light Rail Terminal (LRT) line in St. Albert, connecting to Edmonton’s planned LRT station at Campbell Road and 153rd Avenue.
The St. Albert Taxpayers Association considers this proposal to be excessive and premature. Our members are almost unanimous in opposing this proposal – the split comes on why we’re opposed to the LRT study. Some of us think the proposal is a bad idea based on studying the limited information we’ve been able to glean from Edmonton Transit. Edmonton Transit’s best guess is that the Campbell Road LRT extension is at least 20 years away. Any planning and study we do in 2013 would be entirely pointless and out of date 20 years from now.
Other members are aghast at the way the cost of running seven kilometres of track close to Highway 2 through St. Albert has been “guesstimated.” Edmonton has reported that its costs of building through commercial neighbourhoods has been upwards of $100 million per kilometre. And that doesn’t even include the cost of building bridges and overcoming steep grades, both of which would be necessary if the LRT were built through St. Albert.
Paying that cost would easily bankrupt St. Albert! Coun. Len Bracko objected to the Association’s claims at St. Albert City Council’s meeting on February 25, as you can see here (http://www.pbtech.org/clients/stalbert/stalbertcc02252013.html)
Coun. Bracko claims that the LRT is buildable to St. Albert within 10 years. He also said that, with federal and provincial grants, St. Albert’s cost would only be about $100 million. He says that this wouldn’t bankrupt St. Albert, and he’s right.
That said, what Coun. Bracko didn’t say is just as significant. Mayor Nolan Crouse says it’s much more likely that the LRT will come to St. Albert within 30 to 50 years. Not to mention that the federal and provincial governments are facing large deficits and trying to balance their books. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll be dispensing grants any time soon. We think Coun. Bracko’s expectations of getting an LRT subsidy approaching $1 billion for our little city are a pipe dream, at best.
For all these reasons, Coun. Bracko’s proposal of spending $500,000 of taxpayer money on an LRT study is, in our view, completely unfeasible. As Ross Perot was known to say: “That dog don’t hunt!”
Dean Doucette, St. Albert Taxpayers Association