Extending the Capital Line LRT to the city’s southern suburbs is one step closer to reality after Edmonton city council approved amended plans that includes a new elevated station, overpass and maintenance facility on Tuesday.
Now, the city must wait for federal funding before construction can tentatively begin next year.
The plan would see the LRT extended 4.5 kilometres south of the current end point at Century Park to the Heritage Valley Park and Ride at Ellerslie Road and 135 Street, where the updated plan calls for a raised station and track overpass.
Also included in the plan is a train underpass at 23 Avenue, a bridge over Blackmud Creek, a station in the Twin Brooks neighbourhood, a bridge over Anthony Henday Drive, a new LRT operations and maintenance facility and the purchase of 24 light rail cars.
Raised Heritage Valley station and crossing at Ellerslie Road
A big change in the plan calls for the grade-separated crossing at Ellerslie Road and subsequent raised LRT station at the Heritage Valley Park and Ride, which will replace Century Park as the main southside transit hub along the line.
The city said it reviewed that area and took in account several new factors since the original plan was made — such as the access to the planned south Edmonton hospital — when deciding to raise the tracks in the area.
The Ellerslie station will be the new southern LRT terminus when the first phase of the project is complete.
The city said the LRT station will be the centerpiece of the Heritage Valley multi-modal hub that includes the new park and ride, as well as a transit centre.
When fully built out, the park and ride is expected to have 1,900 parking stalls and up to 20 bus bays, making it the largest in the city.
“In the fastest growing sector of the city, the project will encourage many who do not have direct access to an LRT line to make full use of the system by connecting the Capital Line to the Heritage Valley Park and Ride and transit centre,” the city report said.
New south Edmonton LRT maintenance facility
The project also includes a new LRT operations and maintenance facility along the Henday near the MacEwan neighbourhood.
The southside facility means a smaller one planned along the Metro Line in the north-central Edmonton’s Montrose neighbourhood won’t go ahead, as the south location will be large enough to support both the Capital and Metro lines, the city report said.
The city said the new Heritage Valley OMF will complement the existing northside facility by providing additional capacity to meet the long-term requirements of an expanded LRT network.
The first stage of the facility, which is included in the LRT expansion plan, will provide storage for up to 50 LRT vehicles and include maintenance and office space.
At full buildout, the building will have capacity for 90 vehicles, a wash track, up to eight maintenance bays, right-of-way equipment storage, and offices.
Waiting on Ottawa for funding approval
A City of Edmonton administration report stated each level of government is set to pitch in about a third of the $1.025 billion expansion cost: $392 million from Ottawa, $300 million from Alberta, and the City’s $333 million contribution of which $330.7 million would be from tax-supported debt financing.
The report, which passed without debate Tuesday at council, said the city has confirmed funding from the Alberta government, as part of a previous overall commitment by the province and federal government for light rail transit expansion across Edmonton.
The province approved the plan to extend the Capital Line south of Century Park and its share of the funding this past March, when it also sent the project along to Infrastructure Canada for federal approval.
The last big step before shovels can get in the ground is confirmation of money from Ottawa, which the city is confident will happen.
The city report says that process with the federal Treasury Board can sometimes take seven to nine months, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other competing priorities.
That said, Infrastructure Canada “has indicated that they are agreeable to work to complete this process in five to six months,” to aim for a late summer/early fall approval date, the report said.
The timing of final funding approvals will influence whether construction is able to begin in the spring or summer of 2022, with an estimated completion date five years later in December 2027.
How will the city pay for its portion of the expansion?
The city said it’s estimated that a tax levy increase of 1.02 per cent would be required to fund the cost of borrowing money to build the Capital Line south, phased in over the period of 2022-2027.
The report said the annual debt servicing costs would start around $700,000 in 2022 and increase to $19.2 million in 2027 — staying at that amount until 2046. After 2046, the debt will gradually decrease until it’s fully paid off in 2051, the city said.
While waiting for Ottawa to green light the project, the report said the city will work on putting together a request for proposals to facilitate a construction starting in 2022.
The city also has to finalize negotiations with the province to purchase land in the Transportation Utility Corridor — along which Anthony Henday Drive is built — in order for the city to construct the train bridge over the freeway and the new southside maintenance facility.
Future expansions of the Capital Line
Future phases of the Capital Line south expansion call for the tracks to be extended 1.2 kilometres to the provincial lands where the hospital is expected to be built, and then another two kilometres past that to Allard/Desrochers area.
A long-term plans also calls for the city to extend the Capital Line tracks 8.7 kilometres northeast of Clareview — in three phases — to the ultimately end at the Edmonton Energy and Technology Park (EETP).