Valley Line Southeast LRT behind schedule, Edmonton council told

The Valley Line Southeast LRT is behind schedule, city councillors heard Monday, but it’s unclear how many months — or years — the $1.8 billion is delayed.

Southeast line was slated to open at the end of 2020

A rendering of the13-kilometre Valley Line Southeast LRT, running from Mill Woods in the south to downtown Edmonton. (City of Edmonton)

The Valley Line Southeast LRT is behind schedule, city councillors heard Monday, but it's unclear how many months — or years — the $1.8 billion project is delayed.

The 13-kilometre line from Mill Woods to downtown was scheduled to open by the end of 2020.

Mayor Don Iveson said he wasn't told whether there's a new deadline for the project.

"It's too soon to say where exactly we'll wind up," he said. "They have encountered some significant issues so we have to work through that together."

Adam Laughlin, the city's deputy manager of integrated infrastructure services, told council's executive committee that the city is working with TransEd, the company in charge of the line, to make up time.

"It's trending late," he told the committee. "It's in TransEd's court to remedy that and at this point in time, we don't know the answer to that."

In early spring 2018, crews hit a large concrete mass on the north side of the river, where TransEd is building the Tawatinaw Bridge — a crossing for trains and pedestrians.

It took months to figure out how to deal with the concrete mass, and they're now building around it, said Dean Heuman, spokesperson for TransEd.

Mayor Don Iveson gets an update on the status of the Valley Line Southeast LRT at council's executive committee Monday. (John Shyptika/CBC)

Heuman wouldn't commit to a new timeline for the LRT but said he hopes to have a better sense in the spring.

"I can't give you an exact date," he said. "We are working on — with the city — a number of initiatives to try and get back towards the commencement date of December 2020."

The company is still aiming to regain lost time and open as originally planned,he said.

One initiative aimed at speeding things up is closing 95th Avenue from Connors Road to 85th Street from April to the end of November to shorten construction time.

TransEd held an information session Saturday to get feedback from residents in the neighbourhood. 

"There are definitely people who are wholeheartedly against it regardless," Heuman said.

They are studying suggestions they received from residents "that we might be able to implement to make it more palatable," he said.

One of the biggest concerns is how the closure would affect local businesses, he noted. 

'Let's fix the one we have'

Coun. Mike Nickel, who has a background in construction, wasn't surprised to hear the company is behind schedule with the Valley Line Southeast. 

This map shows the Valley Line LRT route. The blue line depicts the route from downtown Edmonton to the southeast, while the purple line shows the route heading to the southwest. (City of Edmonton)

"At the beginning, there just wasn't enough man-equipment on site. And you can just see it, go drive up and down the line today," he said. "So I literally said three years ago, 'This is going to be late.'"

Nickel estimates the project is about a year late. 

He maintains the position that the city should pause on future LRT projects, including the west portion of the Valley Line from downtown to Lewis Farms. 

"This is kind of why I voted against the west line because I said let's fix the one we have, which is the Metro Line," he suggested.

"Let's finish the one we've got, which is the Valley Line, before we start doing any more LRT."

The Valley Line Southeast is the first portion of the total 27-kilometre low-floor LRT running from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms.

It includes 11 stops, a new bridge across the North Saskatchewan River and a park and ride at Wagner industrial area.

The funding is shared, with $800 million coming from the city of Edmonton, $600 million from the province and $400 million from the federal government.

Iveson noted that the contract with TransEd requires the company to deliver, or not get paid. 

@natashariebe

About the Author

Natasha Riebe

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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.

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