Edmonton city council approved moving ahead with procurement of the city’s Valley Line West LRT Tuesday morning.
The city will now move toward finding the companies who will build the $2.6-billion project for the specified price.
However, it was not a unanimous decision as councillors Tim Cartmell and Mike Nickel voted against moving forward with the project.
During the past several months, Cartmell has raised a list of concerns over the project:
- Long-term funding stability amid a possible change in provincial government this spring
- Whether the tram-style line will be too slow to attract the desired ridership
- Uncertainty on how yet-untested the first leg of the line from Mill Woods to downtown will work with existing traffic
- How the western route will affect existing neighbourhoods and southwest commuters
- Changing technology
“The original LRT line alignment complemented the existing roadway system of the day, it did not compromise it,” Cartmell said on Tuesday.
“The south LRT and southeast Valley Line generally preserve the number of lanes along those alignments. But with west LRT, we are losing traffic lanes and the ability to easily cross this line.”
The Ward 9 councillor said the inability to easily cross a line will have an impact on the movement of goods and services, city buses, emergency responders as well as drivers and pedestrians.
Other councillors and the mayor said the Valley Line will transform the way west Edmonton commutes and it is already leading to development opportunities.
“This is not a street car and it was never designed as such; it is rail transit running in a dedicated corridor,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
“It is stopping more often than the traditional model we’ve seen here in Edmonton because it is designed to serve more communities and support more redevelopment.”
In November, Premier Rachel Notley announced a $1.04-billion commitment towards Edmonton’s Valley Line West LRT expansion. The sticking point: the money is coming from the province’s Climate Leadership Plan, better known as the carbon tax. Eliminating the carbon tax has been one of UCP Leader Jason Kenney’s main promises for months, if elected this spring.
However, after the announcement, UCP house leader Jason Nixon said if his party forms the government, it would honour existing funding commitments.
The winning consortium to build the Valley Line West LRT will be announced in 2020 and that is when construction is expected to start.
The city hopes to have the line operating by late 2026 or 2027.