Edmonton councillors vie for new LRT construction in their wards

City councillors are gearing up for a turf war over future LRT priorities in Edmonton.

'You’re going to put us all in a position where we’re going to get into turf wars,' says Coun. Dave Loken

On May 3rd, city council will decide in which part of town to build LRT next. (CBC)

City councillors are gearing up for a turf war over future LRT priorities in Edmonton.

Last week, city staff released a list of all future LRT lines ranked in the order they should be built. The list was based on population, ridership projects and other factors.

On Wednesday, Coun. Dave Loken chastised city management for releasing the report without first consulting city councillors.

"When you're going to do a ranking position like that, you're going to put us all in a position where we're going to get into turf wars here," Loken said.

Councillors won't debate the rankings until next week, but they're already lobbying for their areas of town to get new LRT tracks.

Coun. Bev Esslinger was "very disappointed" with the north west extension of the Metro Line to St. Albert ranking so low on the list.

"I've had many people in the north saying 'do you ever think of the north?' " she said.

She said the proposed route of the future Metro Line extension skews the population results, forcing it down administration's list because it passes two district parks which limits the potential of development along the line.

Meanwhile Coun. Bryan Anderson and Coun. Michael Walters reminded council of the growth toward the south of the city, suggesting council might be better served extending the capital line past Century Park.

Mayor Iveson strives for consensus

Mayor Don Iveson said the one thing all councillors can agree on is the value of LRT, that's why they all want it in their area of town.

"Where there's some jockeying right now is trying to understand who is in line next," he said.

As councillors gave their pitches for their areas at transportation committee Wednesday, Iveson went around the table for private side conversations with each councillor.

He said the majority seem to agree with city administration that the west Valley Line extension should be first in line for construction. But, he said, there's some disagreement over who is in second and third place.

"This is where I think our technical experts have a really important role, to provide a dispassionate analysis," he said.

He said the debate will be political, but said he's hopeful council will reach a consensus by the time council debates the LRT priorities next Tuesday.

Iveson suggested council may be able to fund the design and engineering work using federal transit funding. He said that work may shed light on which lines make the most sense to build next.