An Edmonton bus scheduling change has the transit union expecting an announcement that the Valley Line LRT extension will be delayed yet again.
Bus route 510X — which was covering the Mill Wood Town Centre-to-downtown route the new LRT leg should be covering — was being staffed on a week-to-week basis, said ATU local president Steve Bradshaw. However, it was recently replaced by a more permanent bus route 73 that’s scheduled to last until at least December.
“It suggests to us that perhaps there’s some information in the background somewhere — that’s not being shared publicly — that the Valley Line is not ready to fire up sometime in the summer,” Bradshaw told Global News on Tuesday.
The 13-kilometre line connecting downtown with Mill Woods was originally slated to be ready for passengers in December 2020 before being delayed to the end of 2021. In October 2021, the opening was delayed again to the first quarter of 2022.
Then in December 2021, another delay was announced, this time to the summer of 2022. At the time, an exact opening date was not provided.
On June 22, the contractor behind Edmonton’s Valley Line Southeast LRT said it is still on track to open the line this summer, but an exact date was not released. TransEd — the public-private partner building it — said an exact opening date will be provided closer to when the line will be ready for passengers.
“Route 510X originates at Mill Woods Town Centre and it goes to downtown, approximating the Valley Line LRT,” Bradshaw explained.
“But because it’s a contingency route covering LRT service, it’s never been confirmed as a permanent sort of thing. It’s been running week to week. If they fire up next week, we’ll cut this off next week, that sort of thing. Well now they’ve put it right in the sign up and renumbered it.
“The new Route 73 more closely approximates the routing of 510X. It really is a clear compliment of the LRT.”
Bradshaw says that bus route is in place for this entire quarter, “which is about Christmastime, or until the commencement of the tram line.”
ATU Local 569 is part of the largest union in the public transit industry in the U.S and Canada, representing more than 200,000 workers in all phases of the public and private transit industry.
Bradshaw says reallocating employees to cover LRT routes that should have been up and running years ago is pulling resources away from other areas that need transit staffing.
“Service hours are being used to replace the tram line,” he said. “Those service hours are desperately needed in other parts of the city.
“We need some closure on this project.”
Global News has been requesting comment on the status of the Valley Line LRT extension from TransEd and the city for weeks.
In an email Tuesday just before 1 p.m., a TransEd spokesperson said the company was planning “a project update on Valley Line Southeast in the weeks ahead.”
However, just over an hour later, at about 2:15 p.m., TransEd announced a news conference on the line for Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. Later Tuesday, it was changed to 11 a.m.
The purpose of the media availability at Davies Station (75 Street and Wagner Road), TransEd said, is to: “highlight the progress of testing and commissioning work thus far in Summer 2022.
“Our CEO, Mr. Ronald Joncas, will also provide you with an important update on the service commencement date of the Valley Line Southeast LRT,” said Dallas Lindskoog, communications officer for TransEd.
Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador wasn’t shocked to hear there was a request for a transit contingency plan to cover the route.
“I think some degree of overlap or redundancy actually makes sense. We want to make sure that through that transition period people are going to have transit,” she said on Tuesday afternoon.
She said unexpected changes are usually brought before council and she’s not heard about another delay on the Valley Line.
“I do want more information though.”