A new report to Edmonton councillors is detailing how commuters might be impacted by the southeast LRT once the Valley Line starts running.
The report identifies the five worst intersections where drivers will experience delays.
When the line opens in 2019, the model indicates 18 of the 38 intersections (47 per cent) will be congested during morning rush hour, with maximum lineups greater than 500 metres for six intersections. During afternoon rush hour, 16 of the 38 intersections (42 per cent) will be congested, with vehicles backed up over 500 metres at five intersections.
“Ha! That’s exactly like I expected,” Coun. Mike Nickel said. “I shouldn’t laugh about it but now I’m starting with some grave concerns.”
The report shows that drivers in 2019 could wait two full traffic signal cycles at two intersections during rush hours (95 Avenue and 92 Street; 95 Avenue and 89 Street).
“Like major cities across the world, there are no silver bullets to traffic issues in a growing city,” said Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager of Integrated Infrastructure Services. “It’s not about continuing to add lanes of traffic; it’s around smart decisions about how you’re providing options for commuters in large cities.”
Laughlin said analyzing and predicting traffic implications isn’t an exact science. In fact, he’s says it’s far from it.
“We don’t anticipate someone from the public going in and waiting for 22 minutes at a left turn, but based on the analysis we have right now, that’s a potential,” he said.
“There are lots of commuter choices in terms of adjacent arterials to make a different choice. Quite frankly, we’d prefer the individuals not get in their car, but they get on the LRT system.”
“On opening day, sometimes it’s a traffic nightmare,” said Guy Boston, branch manager of LRT delivery. “But it actually — I don’t want to say alleviates itself but — people make decisions about where they want to go. We have opportunities to change the signal timing to accommodate the traffic that is going through those intersections.”
By 2044, the model forecasts 14 intersections (37 per cent) will be congested during morning rush hour.
“Although the majority of the intersections could experience maximum queue lengths of less than 500 metres, it is forecast that seven intersections will experience vehicle queue lengths greater than 500 metres with the following five intersections experiencing queue lengths greater than 600 metres,” the report reads.
- Whyte Avenue and 83 Street
- Argyll Road and 83 Street
- 34 Avenue and 66 Street
- Eastbound Whitemud Drive ramps and 75 Street
- 23 Avenue and 66 Street
The worst delays are at Whyte Avenue and 83 Street, where according to graphs in the report, westbound drivers trying to turn north will wait more than three-and-a-half minutes. The current wait time at that intersection is 17 seconds.
The report estimates the queue during rush hour will be 600 vehicles long.
During afternoon rush hour in 2044, 55 per cent (21 of the 38 intersections) will be operating in a congested state with maximum lineups longer than 500 metres for five of the intersections, the report found.
The Valley Line stretches 13 kilometres from downtown to Mill Woods. Its scheduled opening day was pushed back to December 2020.
TransEd is contracted to meet certain minimum requirements, some of which are related to how long commuters can expect to wait in traffic once the line is operational. It includes average-vehicle delay, average queue length and maximum queue length — whether motorists are turning right, turning left or going straight.
TransEd is also responsible for a 30-minute travel time for LRT from Mill Woods to downtown.
City council previously rejected a $220-million option that would have elevated the LRT over five intersections because it was determined it wouldn’t have reduced traffic congestion.
“We’ve talked about the Bonnie Doon traffic circle before, we’ve talked about Whyte Avenue,” Coun. Ben Henderson said. “Those are problematic intersections today and this doesn’t make them significantly worse and hopefully, in the long run, it will make them better.”
Residents and business owners have expressed concern about how construction on the LRT line will impact them.
“I live on the south side of Edmonton and the train track on 119 Street totally affects the way I navigate the south side, so I feel like this could really hurt our business,” Sandy Lane Auto owner Brett Morgan said.
Laughlin said members of the community were notified about the potential impacts. However, he said this latest information is more “granular” than details the city released before.
“There were numerous public hearings for the public to be able to raise their concerns or issues with the LRT planning that was done. In the end, council approved the alignment and the concept plan on the information that was available.”
— With files from Scott Johnston, 630 CHED and Slav Kornik