Community gives thumbs down to proposal to temporarily close part of 95th Avenue

Tensions were high Saturday at an information session about the proposed closure of a busy road in Edmonton’s Strathearn neighbourhood.

Shutdown could expedite Valley Line LRT construction

Many Edmontonians expressed their frustration Saturday with a proposal to temporarily shut down a portion of 95th Avenue. The shut down could help speed up LRT construction. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Tensions were high Saturday at an information session about the proposed closure of a busy road in Edmonton's Strathearn neighbourhood.

TransEd, the company building the Valley Line LRT, is proposing a temporary shutdown of 95th Avenue, from Connors Road to 85th Street. The closure would run from April to the end of November, and could shorten construction time for LRT work in the area from two seasons to one.

"If we have more space, we can take the whole road, we can take the whole area, then we can do multiple tasks at the same time and shorten it by months," said Dean Heuman, stakeholder relations manager for Valley Line LRT Southeast.

A brief on the proposal notes current LRT construction in the area had led to complaints about noise, light and access.

If 95th Avenue stays open, construction would continue until 2020. The closure would allow for pedestrian access and north-south road crossing points.

"We're building a good quality product and we're trying to make sure that it happens as fast as possible," Heuman said.

TransEd staff say community feedback will be considered before a decision is made on whether to temporarily close part of 95th Avenue. (TransEd)

Many people who attended the information session at La Cite Francophone made it clear they stand firmly against the proposal. During a presentation by TransEd staff, attendees fired off a flurry of questions and concerns, many speaking over each other to voice their frustrations.

Peggy Adams, co-owner of the Juniper Cafe & Bistro on 95th Avenue and 87th Street, was one of the people who shared her concerns. She fears closing a big portion of 95th Avenue could hurt local businesses.

"With this plan, there's going to be one way to get into the neighbourhood," she said. "I really worry about the traffic and that people just won't bother doing that. If it's too hard to get there, they just won't get there."

Juniper Cafe employs 20 people, and Adams said she worries some employees would have to be laid off if the business took a hit.

Strathearn Community League President Chris Samuel said some businesses are already hurting because current construction in the area has reduced traffic on 95th Avenue.

"We're concerned that a total shutdown of 95th Avenue means that we lose those businesses and they don't come back," Samuel told CBC's Edmonton AM on Friday.

If the closure happens, Heuman said TransEd could help businesses with promotional support through signage, social media and community newspaper ads.

Consultation concerns

Adams said she's also concerned about the consultation process for the proposal. While people heard Saturday that TransEd had spoken with some business owners, Adams said she wasn't one of them.

She also said more communication about the drop-in session would have been helpful, as the only way she learned about it was from a sign posted in the neighbourhood.

People watch a presentation from TransEd staff at an information session on Saturday. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Samuel noted people weren't given much notice about the meeting. Those who couldn't attend can fill out an online survey about the proposal until Feb. 18.

"Really, a couple weeks of consultation feels very short for a decision of this magnitude," Samuel said, noting people need more information before choosing between a road closure or an extra year of construction.

Heuman said most of the feedback TransEd heard Saturday was negative. He said community feedback will be taken into consideration before a final decision is made.