September 13, 2018 6:58 pm
Updated: September 13, 2018 7:37 pm

New Metro LRT plan includes Thales deadline, bridge over Yellowhead, proposed train to St. Albert

WATCH ABOVE: An updated design for the Metro LRT Line extension now includes a tall cable bridge over the Yellowhead.

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City engineers have created another signalling system for the Metro Line LRT they can rely on as a back up, so they’ve set a firm deadline to give the contractor one last chance to get the job done right. Thales has to get things going full speed by Dec. 4.

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“In the event Thales fails to meet its contractual requirements, administration has developed an alternate signalling plan to ensure service on the Metro and Capital Lines can be maintained,” said a council report released Thursday.

“This alternate signalling plan, if required, would be implemented in a staged approach.”

“It’s really serious,” said Councillor Jon Dziadyk, who’s anxious to have the Metro Line advance from NAIT station, through Blatchford and eventually up to a park-and-ride at Campbell Road near St. Albert.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Metro Line suffers yet another signalling issue: crossing arms come down on green light

The long-term Metro LRT plan was unveiled at an open house Thursday afternoon at the Spruce Avenue Community League.

People heard details about a potential bridge over a portion of the Yellowhead and the CN Walker Yard as part of the Metro LRT extension. The proposed Walker Bridge would be the connection from Blatchford towards Campbell Road.

“As part of the Metro Line northwest, we need to get the LRT tracks across Yellowhead Trail and the CN Walker Yard,” said Nat Alampi, the city’s director of LRT infrastructure delivery. “In order to do so, we need some sort of structure to get the trains from the south side to the north side and back and forth.

“We’re proposing a bridge, a cable-stayed bridge. We’re still working with CN Rail on some of the details regarding the bridge itself and we’re still finalizing the design. Essentially we’re looking at a structure that will take off from the ground in the Blatchford neighbourhood and land on the north side of the CN Walker Yards next to the Lauderdale off-leash area.”

A cable-stayed bridge has two large towers with cables used to suspend the bridge deck above the ground. In this case, the towers would be about 75 metres tall. The bridge would span a length of about 650 metres.

Alampi said the team also looked at a tunnelling option but that the cable bridge was less costly, less risky and would also offer a pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.

Watch: It was on this date three years ago that Edmonton’s Metro LRT Line launched its service. Vinesh Pratap reports.

With lessons learned about mixing trains with traffic, the updated proposal also calls for two underground locations, Alampi said.

“We’re proposing to push the Metro Line under 137 Avenue with a station at that location and then another grade separation where the Metro Line crosses 127 Street on 153 Avenue — similar situation where we’re recommending it go from at-grade to under the road and then back up.”

READ MORE: Edmonton planners suggest street-level tracks for LRT at busy downtown intersection

Avoiding at-grade trains at intersections costs more. Depending on how that plays out, Dziadyk said he’d be willing to shorten the distance of the track, just to make sure what’s done is done the best it can be.

“Even if it means less kilometres of alternate track, which is not the proposal, but we need to do it right. So I’d rather (have) a shorter amount of LRT as long as it gets past the Yellowhead, if it’s done right.”

He’s not worried about abandoning the Thales signalling system and going with the original technology that the city is falling back on for a Metro Line extension.

READ MORE: Edmonton serves notice of default to Metro LRT signalling contractor

“If the signalling issues are fixed then I’m fine importing that further to the north.”

“We just need to make sure we’re not unduly impacting intersections and that we get mass transit to the north side,” he said.

Watch below: City councillors are debating the problem-plagued Metro Line LRT this week. The mayor confirms they’ve been looking at alternatives to signal contractor Thales. Kim Smith explains.

The new Metro Line extension was altered after a summer survey period. Alampi said respondents had two priorities.

“They want the train to be optimized and travel as quickly as it can but they also don’t want it to happen solely at the expense of commuter traffic,” he told Global News. “So that’s the juggling act, trying to balance those two transportation modes.”

Planners rejected a third grade separation where 113A Street meets 153 Avenue.

“There’s a strong desire not to have it go up and above the intersection because there would be an elevated structure near the backyards of some of the residents to the south.”

Burying the tracks would have run into utilities, which is why that option was rejected.

A second opportunity to review the revised Metro Line proposal will be Tuesday in the lobby of the Castle Downs Family YMCA at 11510 – 153 Ave.

READ MORE: Drivers could be stuck at LRT crossing for up to 16 minutes: Metro LRT update

The Metro Line extension is proposed in two phases — from a new station at NAIT, into Blatchford then Phase Two: Blatchford to Campbell Road.

City staff will be able to begin looking at construction procurement for Phase One by the end of 2018.

The city’s final recommendations will be taken to city council for approval as part of a non-statutory public hearing on Nov. 6. The amendments to the Metro Line plan, including the bridge over Yellowhead, will be discussed at that meeting.

— With files from Emily Mertz, Global News

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

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