Nearly 100 projects potentially left out of Edmonton's capital budget

Edmonton city council gets its first official look at the $5.2-billion capital budget over the next four years.

Yellowhead Trail, Blatchford, LRT lines win funding; Lewis Farms Rec Centre and Terwillegar Expressway do not

City council will begin debating $4.3-billion capital budget next week. (Lydia Neufeld)

Debate and disagreement will be inevitable at city hall next week as council considers its capital budget for the next four years. 

The proposed $4.3-billion capital budget released Thursday shows the city plans to spend almost half — about 45 per cent — of it on neighbourhood renewal.

The remainder is dedicated to new infrastructure.

Some of the big projects being funded between 2019 and 2022 include the conversion of Yellowhead Trail into a freeway, the Valley Line Southeast LRT, the development of the Blatchford neighbourhood and upgrading Fort Edmonton Park.

But there's a long list — nearly 100 other projects — that have been requested but the finance department is recommending the city doesn't fund. 

The projects include recreation, transit, roads, parks and sports fields. 

  • Commonwealth Stadium — upgrading to meet FIFA requirements
  • Clarke Stadium Enhancements
  • Rollie Miles Leisure Centre
  • Northwest Seniors Centre
  • Churchill LRT Station upgrade
  • Windermere North (Ambleside) Transit Centre and Park and Ride
  • 50th Street widening (Sherwood Park Freeway - 76 Avenue)

Mayor Don Iveson has said it will be a tight budget. 

"The toughest choices we're going to have are on our growth projects, How much and how fast can we attack the challenge of the Terwillegar?" he said Thursday at a media availability. "Do we have capacity for some of the other infrastructure projects that are needed because of growth?"

Nine projects could go forward but only if the city borrows and incurs debt, the report says. They include the much-anticipated Lewis Farms Recreation Centre and Library, upgrades to the LRT Stadium Station and the Terwillegar Drive Expressway.

The budget report describes the Yellowhead Trail as a project of "national significance" as it's part of the Trans-Canada Highway.

The city budgeted $281 million toward the estimated $1 billion project. 

This capital budget also dedicates $814 million to the Valley Line Southeast on top of a previously-funded $1.8 billion. 
Mayor Don Iveson is disappointed the city still hasn't heard from the province on a replacement for an infrastructure grant, known as Municipal Sustainability Initiative. (CBC)

The Valley Line West and Metro Line extensions are also getting a design budget of $56 million.

The city's capital budget allots $115 million toward developing the former city centre airport into what will be the Blatchford neighbourhood.

Iveson took direct aim at the province's withdrawal from a grant program called Municipal Sustainability Initiative, which cities and towns use for long-term planning of capital projects.

The province is reducing MSI grants by $61 million per year over the next three years and ending the program altogether at the end of 2021.

The province intends to replace the MSI with a grant program based on revenue-sharing with municipalities.

Iveson has been asking the province for more details since the announcement was made in March. 

"I'm frustrated again this week with where we're at," Iveson said. "The City of Edmonton operates in an environment of ever-present financial uncertainty around the security and stability of provincial and federal capital grants."

The budget will be presented to city council on Tuesday.