Residents raise safety concerns at Valley Line West LRT open house

Recent incidents on the Metro Line LRT were on the minds of people who attended an open house this week for the Valley Line West LRT.

'They need to start listening to the people of this city,' Hailey Mills says

A concept image of the west extension of the Valley Line LRT. (City of Edmonton)

Hailey Mills and her young children were crossing the LRT tracks near the Health Sciences/Jubilee station when the bells rang out to signal an oncoming train.

In a panic, Mills dashed to one side and her children to the other. They watched, shocked and confused, as the train passed right where they had stood seconds before.

"They're scared now," Mills told CBC News. "Just little things — they might be small but it's huge for the city."

Mills and her kids were at an open house Wednesday about the Valley Line West LRT. The event was designed to update citizens on the line's design and to gather more public input for city council to consider for LRT crossings.

Hailey Mills and her children Angel and Brandon attended the city's Valley Line West LRT open house at the Belmead community hall Wednesday. (CBC)

The Valley Line is a 27-kilometre low-floor urban LRT line that will connect Mill Woods in the southeast to Lewis Farms in west Edmonton.

The southeast leg, from downtown to Mill Woods, is under construction and expected to open by late 2020. Valley Line West, a 14-km rail extension that will connect downtown to Lewis Farms, is expected to be complete by 2025.

Before Wednesday's open house got underway, the parking lot in front of the Belmead community hall at 9109 182nd St. was packed to capacity.

The city wanted feedback on changes to the design of two intersections, said Valley Line West project manager Eva Cheung. The new suggestions include elevating the LRT over 178th Street and alignment changes at 156th Street and along Stony Plain Road.

The Valley Line West LRT will connect Lewis Farms in the north to 102nd Avenue in Edmonton's downtown core. This is the second stage of the Valley Line project. (City of Edmonton)

Community residents mumbled about parking concerns, increased traffic congestion and safety.

Recent incidents on the Metro Line LRT are an issue for Mills, she said.

"Council, this mayor, the developers are not listening," she said. "They need to start listening to the people of this city."

The city is facing renewed questions about LRT safety in the wake of two incidents last weekend with the Metro Line, which links Churchill LRT station downtown to NAIT.

On Saturday, southbound trains twice ended up on the same track as northbound trains — the latest in a series of signalling glitches that have plagued the Metro Line since it started operating in 2015.

Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack said he hopes the city can get the Valley Line West right by elevating the LRT above traffic in particular intersections.
Councillor Andrew Knack was surrounded by people asking questions about the Valley Line West LRT project at an open house Wednesday night. (CBC)

"We've seen some of the challenges in other parts of the city where we didn't invest that money up front … and the impact it caused," Knack said.

"Completely different style of LRT … but I still think there were these key intersections to look at to spend more money up front."

Valley Line trains will run at community traffic speeds, making bells and signal gates unnecessary for pedestrians. The line will also be connected to the city's traffic-signal control system.

"When you cross at a light, there's a walking man [symbol] and when there's a hand, you don't," Cheung said. "It will be really similar to that."