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LRT project moving forward despite lack of funding

EDMONTON- Edmonton city council is moving forward with plans for the Valley LRT Line, despite the fact funding for it has not yet been secured.

Once built, the line will carry passengers from Mill Woods to downtown Edmonton.

So far the city has put aside $800 million for the project but, it’s still looking for additional funds from the provincial and federal governments.

“I think we need to continue to build the momentum for this line,” said Ward 12 councillor Amarjeet Sohi.

“The bind that we’re in right now is if we delay, if we slow down at this point and put the brakes on it, we could see costs go up significantly,” added Ward 8 councillor Ben Henderson.

The project is proposed as a P3. The city has filed an application for $400 million, which is currently before P3 Canada- a federal crown corporation.

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“My understanding is that it is at a level where some decision will be made very quickly,” said Sohi.

The city is also looking for funds from the provincial government. Despite the fact the province is facing tough financial times, city councillors remain optimistic.

“We would not require provincial money and the federal money until 2015. So, we have time to work with both governments in order to come up with some way of cash flows after 2015,” said Sohi.

“We don’t need the money tomorrow, but we need to know that they’re going to be there for it, and if we don’t then it’s just going to be become more expensive and more problematic and I don’t think that’s an efficient use of money,” added Henderson.

Henderson says public transit is extremely important and a high priority for our growing city.

“For the prosperity of our big cities, it’s absolutely critical and necessary. So you’re seeing the area of Kitchener-Waterloo going ahead. You’re seeing Toronto going ahead. You’re seeing Ottawa going ahead,” he said. “We’re pretty determined to make it happen. It’s really pivotally important to the city and the city moving forward.”

On Wednesday, council approved an LRT bridge design which is expected to cost between $45 million and $65 million. Despite voting in favour of it, Ward 11 councillor Kerry Diotte suggests a less expensive bridge could have been an option for the city, in order to save money.

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“It’s nice to have iconic all the time but, we were told that a girder bridge could be built for $35 million and the one that we’ve chosen could cost up to $30 million more. I think that’s money that could be spent better elsewhere.”

The city spent millions on the Metro Line to NAIT before the majority of funding was secured for the project. That line is scheduled to open next year.

If funding is secured, city council says service on the Valley Line could begin by 2019.

With files from Vinesh Pratap.

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