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Questions, questions and more questions on traffic versus Valley Line LRT

LRT expansion plans to Mill Woods may be controversial to some, but the feeling at Edmonton City Hall is that everything is on the right track. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Edmonton city councillors on executive committee have gone over the projected data for how long drivers will have to wait at individual intersections when the Valley Line LRT is completed in 2020. They’ve asked for more info to help allay concerns.

Mayor Don Iveson sees LRT as a solution to traffic troubles that will increase city wide at all intersections, regardless of whether there’s a train there.

“We know that all of the intersections in the city are going to get worse over time because of new traffic, because of growth. The question is strategically what are we going to do to deal with that?”

READ MORE: Report shows lineups as long as 500m at some intersections due to southeast Valley Line LRT

He said the same analysis that went into the southeast line, is being considered for the west. That’s why he said more elevated tracks will likely be part of the final design to Lewis Estates.

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“We knew we were going to go over 170 Street, but we’re looking very closely at 149 Street and 178 Street to say should we move the train either above or below traffic at those intersections? So we’re doing exactly the kind of planning for the west line that we did for the southeast line.”

Both the mayor and deputy city manager Adam Laughlin agree there is no silver bullet for traffic congestion, and simply making roads wider isn’t a solution.

READ MORE: TransEd kicks off construction on Valley Line LRT Bonnie Doon stop

The amount of time the trains hold things up at intersections will, in part, be dictated by the contract TransEd has with the city. The contract calls for the total trip time from Mill Woods to downtown to be 29 minutes. That’s prompted Councillor Michael Oshry to wonder how much things can be altered along the route.

“It’s all based on projections which are never going to be exact and they’re doing the best they can but, ultimately, I think we have to have some flexibility in train times and how that affects certain intersections if they are really not performing as they are intended.”

WATCH BELOW: Waiting minutes to get through an intersection? The details are in a new report that’s only now showing the potential traffic impacts of the new Valley LRT Line. Vinesh Pratap explains.

Report shows potential traffic delays of Valley Line LRT
Report shows potential traffic delays of Valley Line LRT

Coun. Ben Henderson worries that some communities like Strathearn will become cut off because of long queues of traffic at peak rush hour.

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“Those are the kinds of things we need to look at, which is different from the kinds of things we’ve been focusing on right now, the flow of commuter traffic.

“I want us to go back and look and make sure we’ve taken care of the neighbourhoods and they don’t get boxed in, in the way we’ve boxed Belgravia in.”

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A communication plan will be accelerated to answer the public’s concerns. Councillor Andrew Knack said he’s surprised that most people don’t even know the Valley Line won’t be the same as the traditional LRT we’ve had in Edmonton.

“I was well aware it’s a low-floor system from back when the decision was made in 2008.”

READ MORE: Strathearn Heights developers ask for Edmonton’s help to build pedestrian road

He’s proposed that videos of systems from Denver and San Jose be displayed to show people how the trains interact with traffic.

Councillor Mike Nickel said he’ll pursue base numbers near eight intersections in his ward along the line so when the train begins in 2020 they’ll have something to compare to. Short-cutting, parasitic parking and pedestrian wait times will be observed.

Other escape routes for motorists are top of mind for council as well. Still on the table with the province and the feds is the concept of grade separation at the CN yards at 75 Street and 50 Street. Iveson said talks are still underway although there’s the liklihood there won’t be enough money for both right away.

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