March 14, 2018 8:00 am
Updated: March 14, 2018 9:28 pm

New cost estimate for Valley Line West LRT spurs discussion about emerging technologies

WATCH ABOVE: It's going to cost more to expand Edmonton's LRT system to the west end, as the price tag has jumped by $440 million. City Councillor Andrew Knack joined Shaye Ganam on Global News Morning to talk about the higher cost, what new options have been presented, and where council goes from here.

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The cost of the West Valley Line LRT has sent shockwaves through city council. It climbed $440 million to well over $2.24 billion, according to a report that was released Tuesday by the city.

The price is also causing some jitters as councillors look at emerging transit technology and wonder if they’re throwing your money away.

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“The last thing I want to do is overspend money on something that’s going to be redundant in under 20 years,” said Councillor Mike Nickel. “Two-point-two-four billion [dollars], right? Think about that. That could be redundant in 20 years. That’s a pretty serious number.”

City councillors have been bombarded with literature touting driverless vehicles and emerging engineering. Both Nickel and Mayor Don Iveson mentioned Magnovate Technologies or Maglev Transportation by name when offering reaction to reporters on the $2.24-billion pricetag.

READ MORE: Projected cost of Edmonton’s Valley Line West LRT jumps by $440M

However, Iveson wants to go ahead because he said the real cost is the land you need to set aside no matter what vehicles you run as a transit system.

“The technology may evolve over time but the fundamental premise that you need a dedicated corridor — we’ve seen the dedicated corridor is really the expensive part,” Iveson said. “The tracks and the wires are not as expensive.”

He said the premise in mass transit is, you can have passengers that normally would travel across six lanes of traffic slip through two lanes of corridor in an LRT train.

That train, Nickel said, could one day get commuters to work with speed.

“I looked at the Maglev model and those guys are for real,” he said.

“Their technology is for real. It’s based on airplane technology and if their prototyping stands up, it’s a whole different kind of LRT. It’s really quite amazing.”

The West LRT price jumped $440 million because of grade separation at 149 and 178 streets, which will be the focus of debate next week when council hosts a public hearing on March 21.

West LRT renders supplied by the City of Edmonton. March 13, 2018.

Courtesy: City of Edmonton

The report came out on the day council’s Urban Planning Committee postponed a report on adding a bridge and either bus service or a train from Blatchford over the Yellowhead and CN Rail yards into Calder.

READ MORE: City report pans idea of building bus bridge, then converting it to LRT bridge

Councillor Bev Esslinger asked for the postponement because she wasn’t able to attend. She’s looking to have LRT built to Griesbach, something Iveson thinks can still happen, even as prices increase.

Iveson is basing that on the money the Notley government has committed to Calgary for its Green Line LRT.

“In the realm of a $1.5-billion match to what Calgary is getting, that would help us make the best decision and potentially [we could] both go south to the new hospital site and north all the way to Griesbach to the transit-oriented development there, within a reasonable period of time, after West [LRT].”

The Griesbach discussion has been postponed until April 3. At that time, council will also look at three other LRT reports: Capital Line planning, South Edmonton residential growth and projected transportation demands.

Watch below: (From March 14, 2018) With a price tag of more than $2.2 billion, Edmonton’s West LRT expansion is proving to be costlier than first though. Vinesh Pratap decided to see how its costs compare to other Canadian transit projects.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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