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Opening of Valley Line Southeast LRT delayed again as first train crosses Tawatinâ Bridge

Click to play video: 'New delay in Valley Line LRT project' New delay in Valley Line LRT project
A new delay to the Valley Line LRT project overshadowed a milestone moment. The first train cars crossed the new LRT bridge Tuesday morning, but they won't actually be carrying passengers for quite some time. Breanna Karstens-Smith looks at the new timeline – Oct 12, 2021

The opening of the Valley Line Southeast LRT has been delayed to the first quarter of 2022.

The updated timeline was revealed during a news conference Tuesday morning to mark the first train crossing the new Tawatinâ Bridge.

The low-floor train crossing the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River marks the beginning of train testing into the new Quarters Tunnel and the downtown core.

“This train movement expands our testing activity from the south to the north side of the river for the first time,” said Dallas Lindskoog, communications manager with TransEd, the public-private partner building the 13-kilometre line from Mill Woods to downtown.

“Going forward, energization of the overhead wires and train testing will occur along the full 13-kilometre alignment of the Valley Line.”

The line was originally slated to be ready for passengers in December 2020 before being delayed to the end of this year. Now, TransEd, the public-private partner building the 13-kilometre line from Mill Woods to downtown, is saying the opening will happen next year.

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

The company said the delayed opening is to allow time for the train testing, as well as delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic; staff have been sick and supplies have been delayed.

“There is nothing significant in testing that has caused the delay. It’s just the progression of the work,” Lindskoog said.

“It’s a great deal of work to do that. There’s a lot of complicated aspects. We’re not willing to take any shortcuts in doing those testing activities. You have to remember that TransEd will operate the system for 30 years. We’re not going to do anything that’s going to put that in jeopardy so if it means being a little bit later, we’ll do that.

“It’s not uncommon to find things that have to be corrected. When those things happen, they’re not unexpected. They don’t cause a full-stop to other commissioning activities.

“Other things can happen while the crews go in, address the situation and get things up and running again.”

In a statement, the City of Edmonton said it had not received an updated project schedule from TransEd.

“The latest date for service commencement the city has received from TransEd is Dec. 27, 2021,” Adam Laughlin, deputy city manager of integrated infrastructure services, said in a statement.

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“We are following up with TransEd directly. More information will be shared when it is possible to do so.”

Read more: Valley Line LRT begins train testing in Edmonton’s Strathearn area

This isn’t the first time an LRT project has been delayed in Edmonton. Lindskoog stressed this project is different.

“This system is not the same as the system that is currently operating in the city. The signalling system is not the same. The challenges that other projects faced are not the challenges we faced here, like the obstruction in the river bridge and pandemic,” he said.

The City of Edmonton said it will not be responsible for any extra costs associated with the delay.

Read more: Edmonton acknowledges ‘unreliability’ of signalling system after issues disrupt Metro Line LRT

The start of testing north of the river is the next step as the company prepares for line-wide testing. Up until now, all energization and train testing has primarily been in the Mill Woods area and communities south of the river.

“This is an opportunity for people who live, work and play downtown to witness how the low-floor trains move and integrate with the environment,” Lindskoog said in a news release Tuesday.

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“A key feature of the Valley Line Southeast LRT is that it does not include crossing arms, gates or bells. The Valley Line is integrated with the environment and will operate in alignment with the traffic signalling system and with the train driver’s line-of-sight view.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton businesses react to latest LRT delay' Edmonton businesses react to latest LRT delay
Edmonton businesses react to latest LRT delay – Oct 13, 2021

Lindskoog said the overall project is about 95 per cent complete. As crews continue to finish the project, he urged people — whether on foot, bike or in a vehicle — to be aware of the train movements and ensure they’re not distracted in construction and testing zones.

“If there’s a signal, stop at that signal. If there’s a flag person asking you to stop, please stop. Please drive slowly when you’re going through our construction area. If you’re a pedestrian, it’s really important that you stick to designated pedestrian paths — stay on the sidewalks, stay on the shared-use paths. Follow our designated pedestrian routing signage and please do not shortcut across the tracks.”

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Read more: Tawatinâ Bridge deck completion marks another milestone for Edmonton Valley Line LRT

The name Tawatinâ is Cree for “valley.” The Tawatinâ Bridge connects the north and south banks of the North Saskatchewan River, replacing the former Cloverdale footbridge.

Click to play video: 'Tawatinâ Bridge deck completion marks another milestone for Edmonton Valley Line LRT' Tawatinâ Bridge deck completion marks another milestone for Edmonton Valley Line LRT
Tawatinâ Bridge deck completion marks another milestone for Edmonton Valley Line LRT – Sep 12, 2020

It also includes an eight-metre-wide shared-use pathway underneath the bridge, which is expected to open at the end of November. The path will connect to existing river valley trails.

Work currently underway on the shared-use path includes installing railings and the wood deck on the pedestrian bridge. Last week, crews started installing the public art that was commissioned for the pedestrian path.

The City of Edmonton commissioned local Indigenous artists to create 400 painted panels for the underside of the bridge, which are meant to celebrate the history of the region.

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The first train crossed the Tawatinâ Bridge in Edmonton Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Global News
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The first train crossed the Tawatinâ Bridge in Edmonton Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Global News
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The first train crossed the Tawatinâ Bridge in Edmonton Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Global News
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The first train crossed the Tawatinâ Bridge in Edmonton Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Global News

 

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