Edmonton city councillors voted in favour of a plan Friday night that will see the Valley LRT Line built with at-grade tracks at 149 Street and Stony Plain Road.
The cost for the western leg of the Valley Line is now estimated to be about $2 billion and the city said the project could be ready for procurement by the end of the year.
The plan voted on Friday night does not include an underpass at 149 Street despite previous recommendations for that by city planners. The underpass would have cost $160 million.
The plan approved by councillors, however, will see the LRT tracks be elevated over 87 Avenue from 170 Street to past 178 Street.
“This is a significant milestone,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
Not everyone voted in favour of the plan. Councillor Jon Dziadyk said he felt he couldn’t support the motion because lessons had not been learned from Phase 1 of the project.
Councillor Mike Nickel also voted against the plan.
Councillor Andrew Knack acknowledged not everyone is happy with the plan.
“We’ve now done the due diligence on this,” Knack said. “We have put everything together and yeah, there will still be some who aren’t going to be happy and it’s not like this means that your commute will have zero impact, but I think we’ve done what we can to minimize those impacts overall while providing a new option that’s going to efficiently move people even faster than driving.”
Earlier this week, Global News examined the Valley Line’s potential ability for handling increased passenger capacity. A look at the design specifications shows once the first phase of the line is built in 2020, there may not be a chance for the city to increase passenger capacity or train frequency along the busy corridor.
The design’s specifications along with the number of cars per train and their planned frequency means the line will be able to transport a maximum of about 6,600 people over the course of an hour, based on a five-minute frequency. By comparison, the current Capital Line is able to transport about 12,000 people – nearly twice as many people – per hour.
As a result of the closer scrutiny of the capacity issue, the subject was brought up as council debated the plan on Friday.
“Right now, today, two trains of five cars plus a train of three cars on five-minute headways is 9,100 people an hour and there’s people that are waiting for two or three trains to go by before they get on,” Councillor Tim Cartmell said. “So what I’m getting at is if we get the same sort of uptake immediately when this line opens, it could be at capacity immediately, not withstanding what the modelling shows.”
At a public hearing about the west LRT extension plan on Wednesday, dozens of Edmontonians spoke out.
Peter Doell, with the West Jasper/Sherwood Community League, said the people and businesses he represents wanted the intersection to stay as it is, with trains going through at street level. They believed the underpass would eliminate some turn options off 149 Street and that nearby neighbourhoods would bear the brunt of traffic cutting through.
Watch below: On March 21, 2018, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about criticism coming in quickly on Wednesday for Edmonton’s West LRT plan.
Some area businesses also worried that building an underpass would have meant several of them would have to move.
Iveson added that the city was listening to concerns of area residents and businesses when it decided the underpass at 149 Street was not needed.
“It’s not worth $200 million to create all these issues just to gain back a few seconds of traffic flow, so that’s eyes wide open,” he said. “There are going to be impacts to traffic putting the train in.”
-With files from Caley Ramsay and Vinesh Pratap
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