October 11, 2017 3:54 pm
Updated: October 11, 2017 8:56 pm

Ahead of election, Edmonton residents question LRT expansion plans

WATCH ABOVE: Above or below ground? At street level? Edmonton city councils have been debating how to handle LRT projects for decades. Vinesh Pratap finds out how this new group might approach it.

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As the rush hours start each day, Westmount resident Jim Nichols is among the masses making his way to work. And his daily routine includes an inconvenient wait.

“That’s changed from a few minutes to 15 minutes to get through that intersection,” said Nichols, who speaks about University Avenue and 114 Street.

It’s through the busy location that multiple times an hour rail crossings come down, traffic comes to a stop and drivers have to pause as the LRT crosses.

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“It seems like there’s a war on cars,” a frustrated Nichols explained, adding taking the train isn’t an option for him, since it doesn’t go anywhere near his work.

“Transportation is a major issue I hear at the doorsteps,” said Ward 5 council candidate Nafisa Bowen.

READ MORE: Edmonton city councillors reject $220M elevated LRT option

With the election campaign in full gear, the frustration of LRT and intersections is being heard on the campaign trail.

“What we want to see is, make sure that it works in concert with traffic,” Bowen said. “That — in my platform — is going over or under all major intersections.”

Part of the northern edge of Ward 5 will be home to Valley Line Phase 2. The initial plans show an overpass at 170 Street at West Edmonton Mall.

READ MORE: City of Edmonton has a lot to say about new transportation ideas

The city has recently been exploring overpass options elsewhere along the planned route — at 178 Street and 149 Street and Stony Plain Road; changes advocated by the incumbent mayoral candidate Don Iveson.

Those running for office still have some tough questions.

“Instead of wasting a tonne of money getting it wrong, I think most Edmontonians would be happy to delay a little bit and get it right,” Tish Prouse, a Ward 6 candidate, told Global News.

The 109 Street/104 Avenue question

The Valley Line expansion will cut through several major areas, outside the western suburbs. One major choke point close to the core is 109 Street and 104 Avenue.

“I would like an answer from administration better than carefully timed traffic lights,” Prouse explained at the sight, during a recent late-morning interview.

“We already got a queue of people turning left already a block behind us.”

The incumbent council challenger also sees the need for sober second thought. But Scott McKeen adds the new “street-car” style Valley Line is designed to stop at some traffic lights to more easily allow opposing traffic through.

“This is different. And that’s the kind of discussion we really have to wrap our head around. ‘How’s it going to look? How’s it going to behave? What are the trade-offs?'”

“I think they’re just fast-tracking it through just to maybe make a name for themselves.”

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

As Jim Nichols prepares to cast his vote, the city’s handling of the LRT file will be one factor in his decision-making process.

“It’s got to be done right.  If you just do it half hazard, it’s not going to work and they’re proving it here in Edmonton.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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