Construction season in full swing in Edmonton despite COVID-19 pandemic

Edmonton is emerging from a COVID-19 spring slightly ahead of the game on some construction job, while the pandemic could add to delays on the city's biggest project.

Pandemic could put Valley Line Southeast LRT further behind

The Valley Line Southeast LRT could be nine months late or more due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Edmonton is emerging from a COVID-19 spring slightly ahead of the game on some construction jobs.

Crews got inside the Terwillegar and Meadows recreation centres to complete jobs ahead of schedule while the facilities were closed to the public 

Jason Meliefste, acting deputy manager for Integrated Infrastructure Services, told CBC News Monday that the city is updating lighting at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre. 

"Because our rec centres are closed, we were able to go in there and do an LED lighting retrofit," Meliefste said. The work would "typically would have to happen after hours at night or during a facility closure, so in this case we were able to take advantage of the situation." 

Maintenance work on water circulation, filtration and water treatment systems at the Meadows swimming pools was moved up from September.

A utility job on 170th Street by Epcor to prepare for the West LRT was also expedited. By closing two lanes of traffic in each direction, crews finished the work within three weeks instead of the projected six to eight weeks. 

Jason Meliefste, acting deputy manager of Integrated Infrastructure Services, talks to CBC News Monday near the Groat Road bridge project. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

From small maintenance jobs like playground upgrades to larger projects, Meliefste said the city is working on 270 active projects this spring. 

Crews will soon start to widen Yellowhead freeway between the North Saskatchewan River and 62nd Street. 

Two other city-affiliated projects are on schedule: the Muttart Conservatory and Fort Edmonton Park are both closed for the year and set to reopen next year as planned, Meliefste said.

The Groat Road Bridge project is also on track, he said. 

"A lot of the materials — whether it's aggregates, concrete, some of the steel — a lot of it is sourced locally, so you don't necessarily have some of the supply chain issues."

When it comes to road works, including paving and neighbourhood renewal, Meliefste said construction is as robust as usual. 

Contractors have established safe-work protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in tight spaces. 

PCL Construction Ltd., which is in charge of the Imagine Jasper Avenue project, is requiring workers to wear masks, he said. 

Valley Line LRT delays

But not all projects are on schedule. 

The consortium building the Valley Line Southeast LRT, TransEd, is still trying to catch up from lost time when crews encountered a concrete obstruction in the river.

Dallas Lindskoog, a spokesperson for TransED, said new protocols related to COVID-19 health orders are compounding the effects.

"There's no denying that the pandemic itself is having some impacts on the project," Lindskoog told CBC News Monday. 

The future of the pandemic could add to the timeline of the 13-kilometre southeast portion of the Valley Line, which runs from Mill Woods to downtown. 

"There is still the possibility of impacts that could affect the opening date of the LRT," Lindskoog said. "So makes it very hard — and almost impossible — to nail down a date of when we can get trains into service and open them to passengers." 

Workers are taking extra precautions in handwashing and wearing personal protective equipment, he said.

"All that just kind of eats up a little bit of time every single day for every single worker." 

Later this year, TransEd will report back to the city with an updated timeline.



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