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Edmonton councillors confirm more details on SE Valley Line LRT delay

New questions raised about when Edmonton’s Valley LRT Line will be opened
WATCH ABOVE: It's official. Construction of Edmonton's Valley LRT Line will not be done on time. It was supposed to open just over a year from now but as Vinesh Pratap reports, a new date is anybody's guess.

City councillors have confirmed more details of what has been suspected all along, about delays on the construction of the southeast leg of the Valley Line LRT.

The project will now go about six months past its initial December 2020 due date, into 2021.

“There were rumours around council that because of some unexpected, I guess happenings, the bridge, the big rock, it took way longer that what it should have been, so it’s probably going to be delayed six months,” Councillor Moe Banga said Tuesday morning.

The “big rock” Banga is referring to is an unexpected slab of concrete that was found in March of 2018 in the River Valley that delayed the construction of the Tawatina Bridge.

Efforts to play catch up were made in September, by allowing crews an exemption to the noise bylaw, giving them permission to work 24 hours a day, Mondays through Saturdays.

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Coun. Mike Nickel said he has been hearing complaints from the people in Ward 11 about how slow the construction process has been, and he has been quietly warning that the December 2020 deadline won’t be met. He anticipates that lawyers will get involved.

“There’s going to be a whole litany of claims, I have no doubt about it. On a billion dollar project, that’s what is going to happen. Is the contract clearly defined? Do we have a good arbitration process?”

Mayor Don Iveson said that is built in. “Our contract has very robust mechanisms in it for the city to hold the contractor accountable, including a variety of different dispute resolution mechanisms, some of which have already been used and which will continue to get used as the project carries forward.” ​

“(The delay) was not unexpected, based off what we’ve seen so far on the progress reports,” said Councillor Andrew Knack, who moved a motion at the Dec. 2 executive committee meeting to amend a professional services contract with AECOM Canada Ltd, for engineering consulting services for an additional $28.5 million.

READ MORE: Mystery emerges, leading to delay in Valley Line LRT construction

Knack said AECOM serves as a cross-checker, going over TransEd‘s work and serving as a second set of eyes to verify work in progress and under completion by the consortium’s team.

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“You have to have somebody, and you have to have those experts kept through out the process to ensure that before you sign off on anything you’re confident that yes it’s safe, yes it’s complete as what was originally contracted,” said Knack.

“If not everything is going to be finished as intended, you have to make sure whoever is doing the work that’s double-checking, that [they are] around for the duration of the project,

“So that before we’ve gotten a complete sign off, we’ve had that additional third party verification that it’s being done properly.”

READ MORE: 24-hour noise expected as Valley Line LRT bridge crews race to beat winter weather

Knack anticipates there will be some negotiation between the city and TransEd over late penalties.

He also admits there will likely be legal claims still to come, but he also said more efforts are being made to get closer to the original schedule since TransEd will be operating the project as a design-build-finance-maintain-and-operate P3.

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“When you’re not operating it that causes an impact to the revenue for the P3 consortium, so there’s still motivation for them to look at different ways to bring it back on to schedule as best as possible.”

Officials with the project are not confirming any dates, other than 2020 won’t be met, while leaving 2021 wide open with out a specific target.

“When you consider it’s a five-year job and you consider being a few months late, perhaps in relation to a five-year job weighed against a more traditional one or two-year job, this is not necessarily something that should be unexpected for the biggest project the city has ever undertaken,” Dallas Lindskoog, the project manager for TransEd said.

Brad Smid, the city’s Valley Line LRT project director said they are working to shorten the extended timeline. “It’s a big project, things change month to month, a lot can happen, particularly in another year.

“We have a whole other construction season in 2020, a lot can change based on the progress that was made this year. We could be bringing that date back even closer,” Smid said.

Lindskoog said work continues in Kingston, Ont. on the light rail vehicles. There will be 26 in total, seven are in Edmonton, with two more expected to be delivered before the end of this year. The rest will be delivered by the end of next summer.

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Banga, whose ward will be served by the Valley Line LRT, said Edmonton Transit is already preparing for the delay. “In the meantime, apparently there are going to be direct bus routes that would be serving the same bus stands and what not, and stations, so we’ll see how it works.”

Edmontonians near Valley Line LRT bridge deal with night construction noise
Edmontonians near Valley Line LRT bridge deal with night construction noise