Will new Edmonton LRT expansion be worth $1.8B expense?

Click to play video: 'Questions about the Valley Line LRT'
Questions about the Valley Line LRT
WATCH ABOVE: Nearly $2 billion of your tax dollars will be spent in the coming years on the Valley LRT Line. Vinesh Pratap wants to find out how residents feel about that investment – Feb 9, 2016

EDMONTON – Some time this spring, construction work will officially begin on the first phase of the Valley Line LRT project.

“There will be a few times that we go on it,” Kerry Sylvester said.  She owns Cactus Flower House in the community of Strathearn.  An LRT stop is planned close by.

“It’s a lot of money,” Sylvester added.

Further south, in King Edward Park, pharmacist Jason Pon talked about his support for LRT expansion, but added:  “I’m kind of skeptical, actually.”

As area business owners and residents anticipate what’s to come, many have questions about whether the city has learned from past LRT mistakes.

“They better have,” Sylvester said. The cost of the Valley Line project is pegged at $1.8 billion.

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Recent LRT expansions have been met with both support and frustration; the latter due to major traffic tie ups at several busy intersections.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, there will be issues,” councillor Mike Nickel said.  He represents Ward 11; a large portion of the new line will run through the area.

“Question is: do we have the right strategies in place to correct them?”

The new Valley Line will run mainly at grade but it will operate differently from what people have seen of LRT in Edmonton. At times, the trains will stop at intersections to let cross traffic through.

“So, if traffic crossing the LRT line has a fresh green then the train may be held back a few seconds to let a little bit more cross traffic to go through,” Nat Alampi with the City of Edmonton told Global News Nov. 2013 at an open house.

That could help ease congestion concerns, but it raises questions about travel time on the new line.  According to city literature, it will take about 30 minutes to go from Mill Woods to downtown.

In comparison, a check on the ETS Trip Planner shows six different bus routes that could make the same trip in 31 to 45 minutes.

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“People have asked me, can we stop the LRT and put in the suggestion of bus rapid transit or something like that,” Nickel said. “The train has left the station.  And so, we have the line; we’re moving forward.”

By 2021, Edmontonians will know if City Hall, the steward of the $1.8 billion expense, made the right call on the project. All citizens can do now is simply watch and wait.

“I think it’s important,” Pon said of LRT expansion, “but it has to be done in the right way.”

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