Report snubs LRT extension into northwest Edmonton

A new report heading to a special city council meeting on Monday says Edmonton should put extending the south LRT to Ellerslie Road as a priority, over and above extending the Metro Line from Blatchford up to Castle Downs and eventually St. Albert.

That’s frustrated Councillor Bev Esslinger because the last report on this, four years ago, had the two projects as equals.

“Both the Capital Line and Metro Line extensions are at the same state of readiness from a design perspective,” the report released Friday said. “However, from a project readiness perspective, the Capital Line is better positioned to commence construction sooner.” (Read the report below).

“I’m absolutely disappointed because I really felt the northwest would be the next leg of the LRT,” Esslinger told Global News. “We were at the same level, and now one’s pulled ahead and that’s frustrating.”

What puts the south ahead of the northwest are a bunch of planning and cost advantages, according to the report.

On Monday, council will be asked to approve the south line from Century Park to Ellerslie Road because of the hospital coming in 2030, more potential for development in Heritage Valley and the upcoming park and ride. Plus, the city already has purchased a bunch of property along the route.

By contrast, there’s still no deal in place to build a bridge over the CN Rail yards, and some 35 land acquisitions still need to be made along the proposed Metro Line route.

“As a result, it is expected that construction could begin on Capital Line as early as 2021, while construction on Metro Line, if funded today, could not likely begin until 2023/2024,” the report reads.

Esslinger said she wonders where work on a Metro Edmonton transit commission fits in this.

“The northwest line was going to end up in St. Albert and become a regional line. With all the emphasis we’ve given to Edmonton Global for regional economic development — we have a regional transit system — it seemed to make sense to inform business about having a regional LRT system.”

She also believes there’s plenty of real estate potential along the line to the northwest.

“I also believe that’s what the residents expect as well. There were several that have bought homes along the proposed line, ready for LRT. There is TOD development that’s potential, but if there’s no LRT we may never be able to see that.”

A report from March 2018 rejected the idea of building a bus bridge over the Yellowhead, then eventually converting it to LRT use because the extra cost would not make it worthwhile.

City council approved an area development plan for Heritage Valley on May 12 that calls for two LRT stations.

Based on some $2.9 billion in funding from both Ottawa and the province, which is going to the west Valley Line LRT and to the Metro Line into Blatchford, city council has roughly $700 million available for the next LRT extension.

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