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Valley Line LRT extension from downtown Edmonton to Mill Woods further behind schedule: city report

Construction on the Valley Line LRT in Edmonton Friday, Sept. 13, 2019.
Construction on the Valley Line LRT in Edmonton Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

Construction on the Valley Line LRT has fallen further behind schedule, according to a new report from the City of Edmonton.

During the first quarter of the year, the schedule performance for the Valley Line LRT expansion to southeast Edmonton was rated at 66 per cent, according to the project’s performance summary.

This is compared to a 69 per cent schedule performance in the previous quarter.

READ MORE: Report snubs LRT extension into northwest Edmonton

The schedule performance measures the project’s schedule efficiency and should be at 100 per for an on-time completion.

The report states there is an increased risk to achieving key milestones in the project agreement.

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According to the report, the impacts on the project due to the COVID-19 pandemic were minimal, but it also noted further detailing of the pandemic’s affect will be evaluated for the Q2 report.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillors confirm more details on SE Valley Line LRT delay

TransEd, the company behind Stage 1 of the Valley Line LRT project, said some of the winter work on the Tawatina bridge and concrete trackway took a bit longer than planned “while executing in challenging winter conditions.”

The company said the critical work continued, while some activities carried over slightly into the second quarter of 2020.

“We continue to work hard to open the LRT to passengers as early as possible in 2021,” read a statement from TransEd.

“There are factors that could affect the date, such as impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic, that make it difficult to give an exact opening date at this time.”

A behind-the-scenes look at the Valley Line LRT project
A behind-the-scenes look at the Valley Line LRT project

Ward 11 Councillor Mike Nickel said coming from a construction background, he understands weather delays, but said it’s something companies have to plan for.

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“The unfortunate part of the project is that I think other delays have taken away their margins of error with regards to that factor,” Nickel told 630 CHED on Wednesday.

“When you run a large construction project, you plan for delays… time, schedule, cost, scope. But I think there’s been a whole bunch of other problems with the line and now we’re seeing that any little disruption is causing major delays because all their wiggle room as been removed.”

He said constituents in his ward have been vocal about the impacts of the project, from road closures to delays and access to their businesses and neighbourhoods.

“It’s been awful. It’s absolutely been awful,” he said. “They just want them out. They want the line done, just get out.

“I’ve got businesses that have said customers can’t get to them. I’ve had people with noise complaints because they’ve got 24-hour waivers on certain portions of the line. It’s just completely up and down the line. People can put up with that kind of disruption for a while, but not forever.”

He said yet another delay calls into question the city’s ability to manage large capital projects.

“As the city talks about doing more LRT, you gotta question the wisdom if we can actually do it on time, on budget, within the scope. That’s the real question because you gotta learn from your mistakes.”

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Nickel questions whether the 2021 opening date is realistic.

“Is it actually going to open in 2021? They’ve missed a couple so I guess, you know, you gotta cut it some slack in the sense that it’s going to open when it’s open and you just gotta keep plowing forward. What else can you do?”

The LRT extension from downtown to Mill Woods was originally scheduled to be finished in December 2020. However, the completion timeline was pushed back last year to sometime in 2021. A specific date was not given.

The Q1 performance summary noted the project remains on budget.