Categories: Local News

Expo bid won’t affect LRT construction

LRT in Edmonton will continue to move on the aggressive timetable, despite the city’s failed bid for Expo 2017. What that means for St. Albert is still up in the air.

Edmonton’s transportation manager Bob Boutilier said earlier this week that city’s aggressive plans to expand the LRT system could be slowed down after the federal government declined to fund the Edmonton Expo.

On Friday, however, he said he received a clear message from city council: the LRT should not be in any way slowed down.

“They made it very clear they are in no mood to slow down the construction of the LRT, which was good to hear,” Boutilier said. “It is full speed ahead, no change to our plan.”

Edmonton’s plan calls for a line from downtown to NAIT to be constructed and opened by 2014, with a longer line running from Millwoods through downtown and out to Lewis Estates opening in 2016.

The two lines are expected to cost $3.4 billion combined and Edmonton is going to be looking for considerable contributions from the provincial and federal governments.

Boutilier said initially he was concerned about having to finish the work in time for the Expo, because problems can creep up.

“Things can happen as you are doing your construction, there could be weather issues, construction problems. This gives us a little bit of wiggle room.”

He said the wiggle room will be helpful, but councillors made it clear to him it doesn’t change the overall timetable and they want the projects completed.

“We are in a little bit more control of how we get it done, but it has been made very clear to me that that’s fine, but we are not slowing down.”

Boutilier said the northwest line from NAIT to St. Albert is still in the early stages, but administration hopes to have a concept plan completed next year.

He said the major challenge in that plan is working around the City Centre Airport lands and determining a route in what is now a blank community.

Despite that challenge he said the city is pressing on with the planning work.

“We started on the north end across the railway lines all the way to St. Albert; it is just at some point we are going to have to determine how to connect those two dots.”

The concept plan would be the last step before detailed engineering designs are completed.

St. Albert line

An LRT line from St. Albert to NAIT is third on the Capital Region Board’s list of LRT priorities, but Edmonton city council hasn’t firmly identified it as the next project to be built.

Boutilier said that while it is ultimately a city council decision there are a lot of reasons why a St. Albert line would make sense.

“That line up to St. Albert is extremely attractive because of the ridership,” he said. “There is a lot of residential pick-up so it has all the attributes to go very quickly, but I think it will come down to who contributes.”

Boutilier said the Edmonton LRT system has been planned as something that would service the whole region not just the city itself and St. Albert is an attractive prospect.

“The other major leg that has to be done is the one to St. Albert.”

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