Metro LRT to cause major traffic delays
Drivers can expect to wait up to 16 minutes at an intersection when the trains start running, city says
Although the Metro LRT line has not yet opened for service, Mayor Don Iveson is already asking for major infrastructure changes to fix major problems caused by the line.
Days before the trains are set to run, council learned Wednesday that the line could cause traffic to slow to a halt.
Drivers along Princess Elizabeth Avenue can expect to wait up to 16 minutes during peak hours to get through the intersection at 106th Street, according to a new report.
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That means drivers can expect to sit behind the wheel and watch the light turn from red to green four times before they clear the intersection.
Iveson said this is the first council has heard about the extent of traffic problems caused by the line.
"If we'd known that it was going to be this, council clearly would have made different planning decisions," he said.
Iveson asked city administration to look into moving one of the stations as a short-term solution, and having the trains run above or below traffic when the line expands.
Councillors will learn how much that would cost on Oct. 7.
Transportation general manager Dorian Wandzura said the first indication of traffic issues in the area were in 2009, when city council voted to move the temporary NAIT station to the campus on the north side of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.
Iveson said no traffic impact study was done when that decision was made. It wasn't until the last few weeks, when officials started to test the traffic, that they realised how bad the problem could be.
"We are going to get a backlash like never before," said Coun. Scott McKeen. "And justified, by the way."
McKeen said he was "gobsmacked" by the traffic delays the city is expecting.
Will the Valley Line be any different?
Coun. Tony Caterina challenged the idea of starting the line on one of the busiest driving weeks of the year, with everyone going back to work and school after the summer holiday.
City officials said they will be able to ease into the situation by starting service on a Sunday of a long weekend.
Trains will travel at a maximum speed of 25 km/h while the city works out ongoing problems with the signalling system.
Wandzura warned even when the line is running at full capacity, there will be only a marginal improvement to traffic.
He said he expects traffic snarls will ease over time, as drivers grow used to the LRT line. That's what happened with the Capital Line, as drivers allowed themselves more time to drive through the area or found other routes.
Iveson said his confidence in the transportation department has been shaken by this latest letdown, and he doesn't want the same mistakes made on the new Valley Line.
"We've had some misses here," he said. "I want to make sure the line that this council builds to the southeast doesn't have misses."
Wandzura said the Valley Line, which will run from downtown to Mill Woods, operates differently than the Metro Line, and will be less likely to disrupt traffic.
"It moves with traffic signals and with traffic," he said. "It actually stops with traffic signals."
Iveson said he plans to go back through all of the information used to plan the Valley Line and validate the information.
"This council needs to take control of these projects," he said.