City report picks LRT expansion over improving Terwillegar Drive to handle growth

Showing up around 6 a.m. is the key to getting a parking stall at the popular parking lot at the Century Park transit station in south Edmonton.
Showing up around 6 a.m. is the key to getting a parking stall at the popular parking lot at the Century Park transit station in south Edmonton. Global News

If this was an awards show, in the envelope city council opens in the category of “best way to cope with a growing southwest,” the winning nominee would be LRT Expansion.

It would win out over two other scenarios, improving Terwillegar Drive with interchanges and creating an express bus route.

READ MORE: Proposed south Edmonton hospital bumps urgency for extending LRT beyond Century Park

A report going to the Urban Planning Committee next Tuesday projected over the next decade, ways to improve vehicle and people movement between the southwest and central Edmonton destinations like the University of Alberta and downtown.

Expanding the Capital Line LRT from Century Park to Heritage Valley, “provides the greatest net benefits relative to the quality of life and environmental factors,” the report said.

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READ MORE: Combining 2 phases of south LRT extension could save Edmonton $50M

In an interview, senior planner Peter Ohm said the three were evaluated against council priorities. “Outcomes that they’re looking for in growing the city, and then in some more tangible things like vehicle-kilometres travelled, vehicle hours occurred, CO2 emissions, etcetera, and based on those criteria or measurement, that scenario was chosen to be the best.”

Coun. Tim Cartmell is backing a study that would see the Terwillegar Drive corridor upgraded. However, this new recommendation flies in the face of the goals he’s set for southwest residents.

Cartmell, who is out of the country for spring break, shared his thoughts in a blog post Friday morning, pointing out that the new report does not change a motion passed by council earlier this year to begin detailed conceptual design of an overpass at 40 Avenue and Terwillegar Drive, and for improvements at the Whitemud/Terwillegar interchange.

“Work continues on getting the upgrades that residents have been waiting decades on for the Terwillegar Corridor, and we expect further public engagement in June,” Carmell wrote.

“I’ve said from the start that mass transit should be a part of solving the transportation woes for those in Southwest Edmonton, but as another report released Thursday shows, the commute many in our riding do each day receives a failing grade.”

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Cartmell acknowledged some Ward 9 residents are “frustrated to see another report that doesn’t seem to capture the everyday experience of being stuck in traffic on a daily commute, with seemingly no progress being made.” He said he understands the concern.

“I will be making my thoughts on this report clear at the Urban Planning Committee on Tuesday, and again at Council.”

READ MORE: Cartmell urges council to support upgrade of Terwillegar Drive

The first scenario explored in Tuesday’s report would have seen improvements with the construction of an interchange at 40th Avenue and Bulyea Drive, enhancements at the interchange at Whitemud, and an interchange at Rabbit Hill Road.

“Scenario one which is the improvements to Terwillegar Drive and the Whitemud are going to have some local benefits for motorists,” Ohm said. “The other scenario for the express bus [scenario #3] along Terwillegar Drive also will have some benefits but to different user types. So I think there’s an opportunity to talk about the trade-offs between those scenarios.”

Coun. Michael Walters said in a message that he doesn’t think extending the LRT south should win out over Terwillegar Drive upgrades. “Both are pretty crucial,” he wrote.

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READ MORE: Alberta government unveils plans for new hospital in southwest Edmonton

The Heritage Valley Park and Ride project has gone to tender and will close Friday. Construction is scheduled to start in May, with completion by the end of 2019. An express bus route linking the park’n’ride to Century Park is included in a proposed new bus system that was released March 22.

The province has announced $400 million in funding for a hospital nearby south of Ellerslie Road and west of 127 Street.