Edmonton city council eyes costly solution to Metro Line traffic problems

City council may be able to avoid future traffic snarls along the Metro Line at Princess Elizabeth Avenue, but it will cost up to $95 million.

Costly construction and line shut-downs needed for a tunnel or elevated platform at Princess Elizabeth Avenue

A train on the Metro LRT Line passes by NAIT. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC )

City council may be able to avoid future traffic snarls along the Metro Line at Princess Elizabeth Avenue, but it will cost up to $95 million.

The line has caused long traffic delays where it intersects with Princess Elizabeth Avenue near the NAIT station since the line opened last September. In some cases, drivers have had to wait up to 10 minutes to clear the lights.

Mayor Don Iveson said he is still hearing complaints from drivers about the traffic and he's glad the city is studying ways to fix it.

But basically, it means going back to the drawing board and redesigning the track between the final two stops.

Next week, councillors will consider options to tunnel underneath the intersection or build an elevated platform so the line can bypass the road.

Councillors asked city staff to investigate the possibility of elevating or burying the tracks when they first learned how slow traffic became after the line started running.

City staff have suggested four options, all of which include moving the NAIT station to its permanent location on the Blatchford lands, west of its current temporary location. 

The most expensive option, to tunnel underneath Princess Elizabeth Avenue, would cost $95 million.

The cheapest option, at $35 million, is to run the line at ground level through the Kingsway Mall parking lot. That means the line would still cross 106th Street and Princess Elizabeth Avenue.

New Kingsway Mall station an option

A new element of the design involves the possibility of building a second station at Kingsway Mall. Iveson said Oxford Properties, the mall's owners, were not open to running track through their land five years ago, but that's changed now.

A new station at Kingsway could accompany new development around the mall as well. The city still needs to consult with Oxford Properties, the mall's owners, to see if the plan could work.

Rebuilding the line would mean shutting it down from NAIT to Kingsway/Royal Alexandria station for three months to a year. According to a city report released Thursday, bus service would be used to shuttle passengers to the final stop.

Iveson optimistic about Metro Line

6 years ago
Duration 2:12
The Kingsway Mall intersection of the Metro Line LRT may have less congestion because the mall is now open to having a stop on the LRT line. Don Iveson said that option is one up for discussion at Wednesday's council meeting.
 Iveson said it's vexing for council and the public that the city has to consider redesigning the line when it has been in operation for less than year.

He said a traffic impact study was never done when council made the decision to extend the line north of Princess Elizabeth Avenue.

"I think every one of us on council was furious to discover that," he said.

The Metro Line is not operating at full speed or frequency, while the city continues to investigate the safety of the line's signaling software. The city could turn up the speed by May, according to the city's latest estimates.

Iveson said it's possible once the line is fully up and running, the traffic issues will improve and the costly solutions won't be necessary.

Councillors will debate the idea at transportation committee on Wednesday.