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Opening of Edmonton’s Valley Line Southeast LRT delayed yet again

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WATCH: Less than two months after its last setback was announced, transportation officials said the Valley Line LRT will not meet its latest deadline. Breanna Karstens-Smith looks at the consequences – Dec 2, 2021

The opening date of Edmonton’s Valley Line Southeast LRT has been pushed back yet again.

TransEd CEO Ronald Joncas said Thursday afternoon that the line connecting downtown with Mill Woods will not open until summer 2022. TransEd is the public-private partner building the 13-kilometre line.

An exact date for the new opening was not provided.

“We are on the 18th hole of the golf (course). So we are about to tee off and we will probably invite you when we’re in the middle of the fairway to indicate to you a more precise date in the summer,” Joncas said.

“The chances of missing that (deadline) are getting less and less as we get closer to the end. So unless you’re going to throw me an Omicron pandemic that’s going to stop absolutely everything, we are confident that we’re going to meet the summer 2022 date.”

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Thursday’s announcement comes after TransEd announced in October that the opening of the line would be delayed to the first quarter of 2022. An exact date was not provided at the time.

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

The line was originally slated to be ready for passengers in December 2020 before being delayed to the end of this year.

In October, the company said the delayed opening was to allow time for train testing, as well as because of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic; staff have been sick and supplies have been delayed.

In his update Thursday in Edmonton, Joncas said there isn’t one single issue behind the latest delay. He explained that the company met with each of the subcontractors and realized they wouldn’t be able to meet deadlines.

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While much progress was made in 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the schedule of the project. Joncas said the past two years have been unprecedented, causing changes to the way TransEd works and impacting its ability to progress as expected.

“This new schedule accounts for the daily challenges that our project still faces, and Edmontonians should be reassured that the safety and quality of the Valley (Line) Southeast will not be compromised under any circumstances,” he said.

“We have developed a schedule that will provide us with the time and resources to complete all of our testing procedures in order to meet our rigorous performance standards and certification.”

Joncas said the project is 96 per cent complete as of Thursday, with the remainder of the work being mostly testing and commissioning. He stressed that no new issues with the line have been revealed.

TransEd has shared the updated timeline with the City of Edmonton this time around. When the last delay was announced in October, it came as a surprise to the city.

Brad Smid, the City of Edmonton’s project director of the Valley Line, is confident this time is different because TransEd has provided the city with a schedule.

“We have a schedule. We can see that path through to the summer — through to completion — where we didn’t really have that visibility or certainty in October.”

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

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

“The cost is set,” Joncas said. “The contract, as you can access online on the city website, is set. So there is no additional cost to the city for the price of the contract. Other mitigations and other costs that are related to the extension of time are assessed separately.”

TransEd has been missing out on transfer payments since the first delay in the project was announced last winter. After February, TransEd is expected to face larger penalties.

“We have a very robust contract in place here that really protects the city and the implications of these delays — TransEd is feeling this every day,” Smid said.

“They’re obviously incurring costs the longer they’re working. They’re not getting paid as they would expect to be getting paid at this point in time.”

This is the city’s largest infrastructure project to date, with a price tag of $1.8 billion.

“This is big,” Smid said. “This is the first brand new system Edmonton is launching since the Capital Line originally opened in 1978. So, these are very complex systems — very large — and we want to make sure that together with our partners, we’re taking the time to do it right.”

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The line is now testing trains along the line between Mill Woods and City Centre.

Joncas also said that the shared-use path on the Tawatinâ Bridge, which connects the north and south banks of the North Saskatchewan River, should be open within days or weeks.

The eight-metre-wide pathway underneath the bridge was scheduled to open at the end of November.

Joncas said the path is awaiting final inspection.

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Valley Line Southeast LRT trains ready to go as TransEd CEO announces delay to line opening Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Global News
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Valley Line Southeast LRT trains ready to go as TransEd CEO announces delay to line opening Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Global News

With files from Breanna Karstens-Smith, Global News.

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