Council hears from residents opposed to design of Valley Line LRT to west Edmonton

City council faces a tough decision on the route and design of the Valley Line West LRT if it considers feedback from dozens of residents in communities along the proposed route.

Many of the 50 speakers at a public hearing oppose 149th Street underpass

A rendering of the Valley Line west LRT from 102nd Street in downtown Edmonton to Lewis Farms in the west end. (City of Edmonton)

City council faces a tough decision on the route and design of the Valley Line West LRT if it considers feedback from dozens of residents in communities along the proposed route.

Business owners and residents attended a public hearing at city hall Wednesday to express their concerns, which ranged from safety issues to a potential loss of business along Stony Plain Road.

Most urged council to reject the proposed amendment to turn 149th Street into an underpass at Stony Plain Road, between the Grovenor and Glenora communities.

Peter Doell, a director with the West Jasper-Sherwood Community League, said the underpass would cut off access from businesses along Stony Plain Road.

"I fear that if businesses see significantly less traffic along this section, that their ability to remain competitive will suffer." 
Peter Doell, a director with West Jasper-Sherwood community league, says keeping the LRT at street level at Stony Plain Road and 149th Street will not hurt businesses. (CBC)

Doell encouraged council to keep the train at street level at 149th Street, as called for in the original design approved in 2013. 

Irene Blain, president of the West Jasper-Sherwood Community League, argued that an underpass would alter the walkable, community-friendly nature of the neighbourhood.

A number of businesses, including a bank, pharmacy, dental office and coffee shops, would need to be expropriated to make room for the train.

"Where is the logic and fairness in approving an underpass that will improve travel time by one minute for individuals that drive through at 149th Street at a cost of up to $200 million?"

Seniors especially would lose their independence, because they'll no longer have easy access to pharmacies and shops, she said. 
Council chambers at city hall was full Wednesday as nearly 50 people were signed up to speak about plans for the Valley Line west LRT. (CBC)

The city also plans to turn Stony Plain Road into a one-way street between 149th and 156th streets, with either a five-metre westbound lane and wider sidewalks or a 3.5-metre westbound lane and a 2.50-metre on-street parking lane.

Susan Maw lives in Glenora, a block away from a proposed LRT station on Stony Plain Road.

Originally from Manchester, England, she's a proponent of mass transit, done properly. 
Susan Maw, a resident of Glenora, thinks the city should switch to rapid transit instead of slow-movingLRT. (CBC)

"The right kind — the kind that does what it kind of says on the tin," she said. "It should be rapid, it should get people where they want to go, and it shouldn't be killing communities in the process."

She said the city needs rapid transit.

"I think $2.24 billion for something slow-moving that kills communities, that doesn't get people where they need to be is, a bit of an overspend."

The MacEwan element

Stuart MacLean, associate vice-president of facilities at Grant MacEwan University, said the school doesn't agree with the proposed design to put the LRT track in the middle of 104th Avenue, with two lanes of traffic on either side.

"Put the track right beside the sidewalk," he proposed. "A key advantage of it — it makes it safer.
The city plans to put the Valley Line west LRT down the middle of 104th Avenue, a design MacEwan University opposes. (City of Edmonton)

"Why would we want to have LRT tracks in the middle of 104th and all of these students either getting on or off and then having to cross a busy street?"

MacLean has submitted the school's proposal to the city's LRT planners before, urging them to put the track closer to the university. 

The preliminary design for the 14-kilometre west segment of the Valley Line was completed in 2013.

Council asked the city to analyze intersections with high traffic volumes last year.

The new design amendments include a raised platform at 178th Street and 87th Avenue.

Coun. Andrew Knack said he's not sold on the 149th St. underpass but doesn't want to change the current route of the line to West Edmonton Mall and Lewis Farms.

"That was settled a decade ago. The important thing is, 'How do we make sure this route works as well as possible?' "

City council will also review plans for the Metro Line LRT from NAIT to Blatchford.

Council will be asked to approve a design for the Valley Line west to Lewis Farms by the end of the year.

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

Journalist

Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.

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