EDMONTON – Premier Alison Redford made a stop at Churchill LRT station in Edmonton Tuesday morning to announce more resources for the city’s LRT Valley Line project.
During the announcement, Redford highlighted $250 million over three years (beginning in 2016-2017) in previously announced GreenTrip funding, as well as two new offerings.
Redford said the province will match up to $150 million provided by the federal government (beginning in 2016-2017) if it’s approved under the new Building Canada Fund.
In addition, the premier said the province will provide up to $200 million in an interest-free loan to be paid back by the city over 10 years, fully backed by the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.
The province also brought a letter of commitment to the city.
“Last year, more than a 100,000 people per day used the LRT – an all-time record,” she added. “Expanding the LRT system is essential and that’s why I’m delighted to say that the province is willing to share the costs of developing the Valley Line project, which is clearly Edmonton’s top priority.”
“This is a momentous occasion,” said Mayor Don Iveson.
“This – and I stand to be corrected – could be the largest municipal infrastructure project in Alberta’s history that we are putting the pieces in place today to move ahead with.”
The main thing, said Iveson, is that this will allow the city to get started on the project and not miss a construction season.
He also said the interest-free loan from the province could be repaid with future GreenTrip funding.
“I am feeling elated,” said Councillor Amarjeet Sohi. “I have been working on this project for six years, and finally, I feel that we’ve accomplished a lot. And now we can put the shovels into the ground very, very quickly. So, this is a big day for Edmonton.”
“Finally, now, all the funding is in place, we can move ahead with getting bids from the private sector and have shovels in the ground early 2015 or mid 2015,” he added.
“Alberta is preparing to welcome a million new residents over the next decade, many of whom will be choosing communities like Edmonton as their home,” said Redford. “Our Building Alberta Plan is helping municipalities build public transit systems to accommodate growth and make it easier for Albertans of all ages and levels of mobility to get where they need to go.”
Funding for expanding the LRT to Mill Woods wasn’t directly addressed in last week’s budget – something which Mayor Don Iveson expressed disappointment about.
He was in slightly higher spirits on Friday, though, after a discussion with Alberta’s finance minister the evening before.
So, what happened between Thursday, when the budget was delivered, and Tuesday?
“That’s a good question, you’d have to ask them,” said Iveson.
Above: The provincial funding announcement came just five days after the budget was unveiled. That fact has the opposition accusing the premier of playing politics. Tom Vernon reports.
“But certainly, I think Edmontonians had a pretty strong reaction when they thought this project was in jeopardy.”
“And, I think that the provincial government has heard loud and clear that it’s not just city council – it’s Edmontonians – who want to build this LRT system up,” he said. “I think they registered that, and acted swiftly in order to find a way to bridge this and find a way to keep it moving,” said Iveson, adding that Edmonton-area MLAs worked hard to find a solution.
“I know that a number of the MLAs from the region have been pushing really hard for this. I know the deputy premier and the finance minister – we were working closely with them to try to find a way to make this work. I think it was all hands on deck at the province to pull this together so quickly.”
The cash isn’t needed right away, but in order to put the project out for tender, City Hall was hoping to secure a funding commitment from the province.
The total cost of the Valley LRT Line is $1.8 billion. The city plans to finance $800 million of that, and hoped to get $400 million from the federal government, and $600 million from the province, $235 million of which it feels it can secure through current GreenTrip funding.
Thursday’s budget outlined a slight increase to funds available to municipalities through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), and a three-year roll out of previously announced GreenTrip funding.
Horner was joined by Premier Alison Redford, Transportation Minister Wayne Drysdale, and Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ken Hughes for Tuesday morning’s announcement.
“This announcement is a good news announcement for Edmonton,” said MacEwan University political scientist, Chaldeans Mensah. “It also gives the premier a bit of breathing room to be able to build on a strategy for the next election.”
“It was really astounding that this was left out of the budget in the first place,” he added, saying Redford will need to build on this announcement.