Edmonton

Federal budget allows Edmonton to build LRT 'indefinitely,' says mayor

Edmonton’s mayor says Tuesday’s federal budget shows Ottawa is finally listening to the big cities and their demand for long term funding for big transportation projects, such as the city’s LRT.

Advocacy has paid off, says Mayor Don Iveson

“Given all the pre-planning work that we’ve done we’re actually very well positioned to take advantage of this funding," said Mayor Don Iveson on Tuesday. (CBC)

Edmonton's mayor says Tuesday's federal budget shows Ottawa is finally listening to the big cities and their demand for long term funding for big transportation projects, such as the city's LRT.

"This money will allow us actually to continue to build LRT indefinitely until the system is done, which is very exciting news for Edmontonians," said Mayor Don Iveson.

​He was responding to a transit funding commitment announced in the budget. A new federal transit fund comes into effect in 2017-18. It includes $750 million over the first two years, increasing to $1 billion per year thereafter for public-private transit projects.

Although it is not yet clear how much money will flow to Edmonton, Iveson said it will allow city council to plan and "not miss a construction season" for LRT growth.

The city has plans to build a west LRT line from downtown to West Edmonton Mall.

Iveson said the federal money will mean the city will not have to wait until the Valley Line, connecting downtown to Millwoods, is open "to start that next phase of construction completing our system."

"Given all the pre-planning work that we've done, we're actually very well positioned to take advantage of this funding."

In February, 19 mayors from Canada's biggest cities met  and called on the federal government and all federal parties to commit to providing funding for transit, citing traffic congestion and failing infrastructure.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) also urged the government to include $1 billion for public transit in the budget.

Both the mayors and the FCM used the timing of a federal election year to make their funding request heard.

Similarly, Iveson is now using Alberta's election to make the same point,  saying the province should match whatever money comes from the federal government.

He said he'll be watching Thursday night's televised debate to see what promises for cities are made, if any, from the provincial parties.

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