Mayor Don Iveson said Edmonton’s rapid population growth is an example of why the city needs to expand its LRT system, and he wants to the provincial and federal governments to pay for most of it.
In his most recent blog posted on Thursday, Iveson suggest the two levels of government should cover 90 per cent of the capital costs of LRT expansion, with the city covering the remainder.
“No-one is saying municipalities shouldn’t have ‘skin in the game’ in the design and build process, but a model where the provincial and federal governments help with 90% of the capital costs would respect the relative fiscal ability of the three orders of government to get the work done – especially when you figure that local governments only collect around 10 cents of your tax dollar,” Iveson said.
“With sustainable, predictable and significant funding from the orders of government who hold the other 90 cents of your tax dollar, we can afford to build transit right and in a timely manner.”
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In his blog, Iveson noted Statistics Canada new census numbers show Edmonton’s population is now 932,546, which as Iveson notes, is nearly double the population of 478,000 in 1978 when Edmonton built its single LRT line. He also pointed out that Edmonton is growing at three times the national rate and anticipates 170,000 new residents in the next decade.
Currently, each level of governments covers one-third of the cost, which Edmonton’s mayor doesn’t believe is fair.
“This approach did not recognize the significant contributions municipalities make – far beyond a one-third contribution – when the entire costs of operating and maintaining rapid transit are considered,” Iveson wrote.
“As a result, our efforts to make a meaningful dent in building our LRT network have stumbled due to sheer fiscal capacity.”
Iveson said LRT expansion in Edmonton would be beneficial for the provincial and federal governments as they deal with the challenges of large deficits and lower revenues.
“We want to be part of the solution. Having a high-performing transit service supports increased productivity, reduces traffic congestion, achieves our shared environmental goals and stimulates economic activity. For example, we know that building Phase 1 of the Valley Line alone will generate over $3 billion in total economic output.”
Construction of phase one of the Valley Line, which runs from Mill Woods to downtown, is underway. It comes at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion.
Iveson estimates it will cost $9.8 billion over the next 25 to 40 years to fully expand LRT.