Transit talk with St. Albert revives Blatchford bridge proposal: Coun. Loken

The Kingsway/RAH LRT Station as trains on the Metro LRT Line start running at full speed on Feb. 19, 2017.
The Kingsway/RAH LRT Station as trains on the Metro LRT Line start running at full speed on Feb. 19, 2017. Nathan Gross, Global News

All of a sudden, with this week’s news that Edmonton and St. Albert have a working relationship on public transit, new life is being breathed into an idea to build a bus bridge over Yellowhead Trail and the rail yards.

A formal inquiry to look into the possiblity of bridging Blatchford and Calder was raised by Coun. Dave Loken and Coun. Bev Esslinger in June.

The idea is once a route hits Calder, an express bus lane could run into the northwest. It would also be the precursor to when the Metro Line LRT is extended from NAIT through Blatchford and north from there.

READ MORE: Esslinger, Loken formally put express bus route to northwest Edmonton on agenda

Loken sees some momentum for the project because improved bus service is something that his part of the city demands, especially now that Edmonton Transit is undergoing a service review.

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“If we do this right, can we work in concert to help enhance what we’re trying to do here with St. Albert?

“It would obviously benefit my ward because the northern tip of my ward is five minutes from St. Albert. To have that connectivity, the Park and Ride that’s going to be there, and better transit service would be a huge plus.”

Loken expects a capital profile will be added to the discussions of the next city council later this year.

“The original estimate was $100 million to $200 million. But obviously we need a better cost than that, but it’s much cheaper than LRT, for the time being anyway.”

As for any willingness for St. Albert to help pay, St. Albert Coun. Wes Broadhead is looking at the big picture.

“Regionally, it would be a good project to review,” he said.

READ MORE: Edmonton and St. Albert agree to next steps in creating metro transit commission

“As the mayor said, it’s something the province keeps wanting us to do and prodding us to do,” Loken agreed about financial help from the province. “Financing willing — because they’re going to have to buck up for this too — this could be a very successful model that we could use all over the region.”

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The original plan in Loken’s mind was to create an express bus that would run from Castledowns to Blatchford in 15 minutes.

The inquiry from Loken and Esslinger was supposed to return from city staff to council in March, however Loken said this may be sped up to at least get a capital profile requested this year.