Edmonton LRT projects, transit stations, to share $144M in funding

The federal government has agreed to put $143.9 million toward 46 Edmonton transit projects, federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced today.

Approved projects include the design of several LRT lines, as well as upgrades to transit stations

Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi (centre right) announces Thursday the federal government will put $143.9 million toward 46 Edmonton transit projects. (CBC)

The federal government has agreed to put $143.9 million toward more than four dozen Edmonton transit projects, federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced today.

The approved projects include the design of several LRT lines, as well as refurbishment and upgrades to transit stations.

"Today's agreement means projects that are not only shovel ready, but also shovel worthy, can proceed without delay," Sohi said at the Alberta legislature.

The federal government will contribute 50 per cent of the funds. With matching funds split between the city and the province, the 46 projects will see total funding of $287.8 million.

Mayor Don Iveson said now that the dollars are in place, some of those projects will start today.

The city usually pays the entire cost of planning and design for projects like LRT extensions. Thanks to the federal and provincial funds, he said those can now go ahead much more quickly than originally anticipated.

"It cues them all up in the order in which council has laid out for construction priority," Iveson said.

He said the west Valley LRT Line and an extension of the Metro Line to Blatchford are the furthest along, and the design work will help determine which will be built next.

The funding is part of the first phase of the Liberal's $120-billion infrastructure plan, which will be rolled out over the next 10 years.

Iveson expects phase two will go toward actually constructing some of those lines.

"I'm quite confident that we'll have a lot of shovels in the ground for a long time as a result of today's announcement," he said.

The largest Edmonton project to receive federal and provincial funding is the $27-million Heritage Valley park and ride. 

"That gives us the ability to move ahead quite quickly on construction of an additional park-and-ride facility that, as we see from the waiting list even for paid stalls at Century Park, there's a huge demand for," Iveson said.

The park and ride will have space for 3,000 stalls, though those may be phased in over time.

The city plans to run shuttles between the new park and ride and Century Park LRT station. 

​The only Edmonton submission that was left off the list of approved projects was an improvement to the Lakewood transit centre. The transit centre is in Sohi's riding, and must go through a different approval process.

"It goes to treasury board for approval," Sohi said. "I will not be signing it off because it's perceived to be a conflict of interest."

Alberta Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason says the province would like be more generous to municipalities in the next round of transit funding, but it must balance that against the fiscal reality. (CBC)

Meanwhile, the provincial government has faced criticism from the mayor and opposition parties for contributing a smaller share of the funding to these projects than it does traditionally.

While it usually pays 33 per cent, it will contribute only 25 per cent for these projects.

Provincial Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason said there is no requirement for the provincial government to contribute anything as part of the federal agreement.

"We certainly would like to be as generous as possible to municipalities," he said. "But we also have to take into account the fact that we need to manage the deficit in this province."

Mason said the issue will be raised at a meeting in Edmonton next week with the provincial and federal governments.