City of Edmonton looks to rein in spending on southwest LRT extension

Click to play video: 'Feds commit $400M for Capital Line LRT expansion into southwest Edmonton'
Feds commit $400M for Capital Line LRT expansion into southwest Edmonton
In July 2021, the federal government announced nearly $400 million in federal funding toward Phase 1 of the Capital Line LRT expansion into southwest Edmonton. – Jul 27, 2021

The extension of Edmonton’s Capital Line LRT to south Edmonton is over budget and city administration is asking council to look at a few changes it hopes will rein in spending.

In 2020, a business case estimated the extension of the LRT from Century Park to Ellerslie Road would cost about $1 billion, and federal funding to the tune of more than $400 million was approved based on that project cost.

However, the city said inflation, supply chain disruption, commodity price volatility and increased competition for skilled labour caused the estimate to balloon above the approved project funding.

Now, city administration is looking at what can be cut or deferred in order to keep the 4.5-kilometre extension within scope. The city did not share a dollar value on how much the project’s cost has increased by.

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Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi Coun. Jennifer Rice said the proposed scope changes are concerning as residents aren’t being asked for input.

“For our city’s normal process, for this major infrastructure project, we would have public consultation … right now, with all this change, why are we not providing the opportunity for the public to be heard?”

The city said there has been public engagement on the extension since development began in 2008, with feedback helping shape the preliminary design. According to a city update on the extension, the last chance for residents to provide feedback was in January 2023, but the scope changes weren’t brought up.

Click to play video: 'New Edmonton park and ride location significantly underused'
New Edmonton park and ride location significantly underused

Three scope changes are proposed to cut costs.

The initial plan was to have the existing Heritage Valley Park and Ride nearly doubled in size to 1,900 parking spots, but city staff said deferring that expansion could be an option for cutting costs.

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Rice said cutting parking spots at the park and ride would mean less people would be able to ride the LRT from Heritage Valley.

“This will reduce the capacity for Edmontonians to use our LRT within that fastest-growing, high-density area,” she said.

The station at Heritage Valley and the crossing at Ellerslie Road are both designed to be elevated, but to cut costs, the city said the station and crossing could be built at grade instead.

The elevated LRT station at the Heritage Valley Park and Ride transit centre, and raised tracks over Ellerslie Road in south Edmonton. Credit: City of Edmonton

But moving the crossing to street level has the potential to cause traffic issues, Rice said.

“Everyone knows Ellerslie Road is a major, busy traffic route and the most frequently used in the southwest area,” said Rice.

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As part of the project, the city was planning on ordering 24 new LRT cars, a number that accounted for service levels and spares. The city said it could reduce that number to the minimum service requirement and spares.

The city is also looking at changes to the planned operations and maintenance facility that will come along with the extension. Instead of storage for 50 cars and a maintenance area, the reduced scope facility would include storage for 40 cars and no maintenance area.

City council will take a look at these cuts at an executive committee meeting Friday, but no decision will be made. Rice said she has requested the discussion be pushed ahead so residents have a chance to look at the changes.

Construction on the extension is expected to begin late this year and take up to five years, according to the city.

Click to play video: 'South Edmonton LRT extension approved with elevated station at Ellerslie Road'
South Edmonton LRT extension approved with elevated station at Ellerslie Road

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