Edmonton unveils preferred route for Centre LRT line

The City of Edmonton has revealed the preferred route for the proposed Centre LRT line after public consultations on the project began last summer.

New light rail transit line would connect downtown with university, Strathcona and Bonnie Doon neighbourhoods

Residents listen to the results of the June 2017 Centre LRT Study at the Matrix Hotel Thursday night. (Kaylen Small/CBC)

The City of Edmonton has revealed the preferred route for the proposed Centre LRT line after public consultations on the project began last summer.

The street-level rail line would run east-west and connect downtown, the University of Alberta, Garneau, Strathcona and Bonnie Doon.

Approximately 200 people attended the first of three public engagement meetings Thursday night to give input on the preferred route, as well as the locations of stations.

In June 2017, the Centre LRT Study survey asked area residents about their transportation habits and how an LRT might affect them. 

In crafting the preferred option, the study team analyzed that feedback and came up with different routes. Some didn't make the final cut because of lack of amenity access or space.

"We looked at 'Does it connect to major destinations? Does it make sense or not?' " said Satya Gadidasu, the Centre LRT Study manager, on Thursday. "Then we [were] able to put together all this like puzzle pieces."

New bridge proposed

The project is broken into two phases.

"Phase one is the route selection, which gives us an idea of which avenues and streets we are taking," Gadidasu said.

"Next one, we're going to do the concept plan, which will tell us where the tracks should be running … and how many stations need to be located."

After phase one is done and council approves the route, the next step will be to look into the costs and benefits of the project and examine more closely the placement of tracks and stations. 

The first of three Centre LRT line public engagement meetings was held at the Matrix Hotel on Thursday evening. (Kaylen Small/CBC)

One idea is to put the LRT on the High Level Bridge to connect both sides of the river, but technical analysis has revealed the historic bridge would require significant and costly upgrades. So, the study group has proposed building a new bridge west of the High Level Bridge.

Jane Gorman has lived in the Garneau neighbourhood for 25 years, and doesn't like the idea of adding another bridge to the skyline, saying that it will be "cluttered looking."

She also doesn't agree with the route choice overall.

"You can already get from downtown to the Legislature to the U of A to the hospitals on the LRT, and so it's like they're condensing all the service just to benefit just a few little people," she said.

"So, I'm just hoping they'll think a little bigger. If they're willing to spend the money on a bridge beside the High Level, they could even build a bridge beside the Groat or else use the Groat."

Gorman's route preference is to join with the Valley Line LRT and run along 124th Street, over the Groat Road bridge to Saskatchewan Drive and then to the University of Alberta.

"I'm just a little distrustful because of all the problems they had on that Metro Line," she said.

Jane Gorman has lived in the Garneau neighbourhood for 25 years, and doesn’t agree with the preferred route choice. (Kaylen Small/CBC)

'Think 20 to 30 years down the road'

Derek MacDonald, a first-year graduate student in urban and regional planning at the University of Alberta, said the Centre LRT line would expand transit options for the Oliver and Strathcona neighbourhoods especially.

"I think that doing the new bridge is justified, given the environmental and heritage impacts on the High Level Bridge," he said. "And being able to preserve the High Level streetcar is really important."

MacDonald said Whyte Avenue is an example of a high-density area with a lot of single-vehicle traffic.

"You could really increase the amount of people being able to go through that route with higher transit density options," he said. "I think it's a really good idea because we do have to think 20 to 30 years down the road when there is going to be a lot more density in downtown Edmonton and central areas."

The preferred route will be officially presented to city council this spring, when the city will address issues raised by the public before approving or rejecting the project.

There will be no timeline or funding for construction of the Centre LRT until it is approved.

Residents can provide feedback about the project at edmonton.ca/centrelrtstudy until March 16.