Valley Line Southeast LRT in limbo as TransEd discovers more cracks in concrete piers

The consortium building the Valley Line Southeast LRT from Mill Woods to downtown says it’s still trying to figure out what caused cracks in more than 20 piers along the line and what’s the best way to fix them. 

Analysis shows cracks in 21 of 45 piers, up from 18 announced 3 weeks ago

The Valley Line Southeast LRT is nearly two years behind the original opening date of winter 2020. (Cort Sloan/CBC)

Edmonton's Valley Line Southeast LRT may be held up indefinitely as the consortium building the line announced it's still trying to determine exactly what caused cracks in more than 20 piers and what's the best way to fix them.

TransEd gave an update on the project Thursday, three weeks after it announced the structural issues meant the LRT wasn't ready to run this summer. 

In a video posted on its website, Ronald Joncas, CEO of TransEd, said 21 of the 45 concrete piers are affected, up from the original 18 it announced in early August.

He said TransEd has confirmed the problem, to some degree, stems from expansion issues related to extreme temperatures.

"Our analysis continues until other factors are ruled out," Joncas said in the video post. 

"We have begun narrowing down various design solutions and over the coming weeks we will begin to detail the design work."

TransEd will not say how long it will take to fix the problems, nor when Edmonton's next LRT might open. 

The $1.8 billion public-private partnership between TransEd and the City of Edmonton is nearly two years behind schedule from the original in-service date of December 2020. 

Joncas said TransEd will post updates on the project's status every two to three weeks. 

Trains are still being tested along sections of the line, he said, and emphasized that it's safe to walk and drive beneath all sections of the elevated track. 

Councillor not surprised

City Coun. Tim Cartmell, an engineer by profession, said he isn't surprised TransEd hasn't pinned down the exact problem.

"When you've got things moving in several directions at different speeds under different environments, that's a very, very complex analysis," Cartmell said in an interview Thursday. 

Cartmell said it's even more complicated trying to figure out what was missing in the original model that could have prevented the problems. 

"The more general question: When is it going to open? Don't know," he said. "Don't know, and too early to know." 

Cartmell is also not surprised the consortium is refraining from saying how long it will take to determine the problems and fix them, and then ultimately, when the line might open. 

"I think they're trying to balance the desire for information with being careful to overcommit and to overcommit on what's happened, overcommit on when things will be fixed." 

The TransEd consortium, created specifically to build the LRT under the P3 model, is responsible for cost overruns and paying for the mistakes. 

It's in their interest to resolve the issues as fast as possible but with complete certainty, Cartmell said. 

"Take the time you need to figure out what's wrong," He said. "Take the time you need to figure out how to fix it, and hurry up and fix it." 


Natasha Riebe


Natasha Riebe landed at CBC News in Edmonton after radio, TV and print journalism gigs in Halifax, Seoul, Yellowknife and on Vancouver Island. Please send tips in confidence to natasha.riebe@cbc.ca.