All aboard? City reviewing High Level Bridge streetcar extension to Whyte Avenue

The City of Edmonton is expected to make a decision on an application to extend the High Level Bridge streetcar to Whyte Avenue.

After 5 years of planning and securing funding, the expansion project is close to becoming a reality

The High Level Bridge streetcar leaves the passenger loading area near Gateway Boulevard and 84th Avenue on Monday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The City of Edmonton is reviewing an application from the Edmonton Radial Railway Society to extend the High Level Bridge streetcar tracks from the Old Strathcona Farmers Market to Whyte Avenue.

The group first started working on the project in 2012 and currently has funding in place to cover the total cost of the project, which it estimates at between $800,000 and $900,000.

The city will make up 25 per cent of the total cost while the province will cover slightly more with a $250,000 contribution.

"Our feeling right now is that we're almost at the point with one final hurdle of getting underway with the project," said Chris Ashdown, president of the Edmonton Radial Railway Society.

The proposed extension would see new tracks crossing Gateway Boulevard before turning south to 82nd Avenue. (CBC)

Ashdown said where passengers currently board the streetcar, north of the market, is hidden and a more visible location along Whyte Avenue could increase ridership.

That would require the streetcar to cross Gateway Boulevard, which sees a lot of vehicletraffic.

Using the land along Whyte Avenue between Gateway Boulevard and 102nd Street has already been approved by the city, but potential traffic implications of the expansion have held up the plan.

"It's a main corridor to the city's downtown from the Queen Elizabeth II Highway," said Harry Luke, senior planner with the city. "One of the things is the high volume of traffic movement and how frequent the crossings will be from the Edmonton Radial Railway Society with their streetcar."

Chris Ashdown hopes extending the High Level Bridge streetcar tracks to Whyte Avenue would improve ridership. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Luke says current bike lane construction along 83rd Avenue would also be affected by the streetcar extension. He said the city and the railway society are trying to come to an agreement on that.

"There's been conversations and some technical requirements that are being proposed to the applicant, and they haven't come to a conclusion yet," Luke said.

The city is expected to make a decision on the streetcar expansion application in the next few weeks.