Edmonton

Construction delays mean Valley Line Southeast LRT won't open this year

The delays have been caused by a longer-than-expected testing process for the new trains, a spokesperson for builder TransEd said Tuesday.

Project will likely welcome its first passengers in 2022, builder says

The new timeline for completion was announced Tuesday as a train rolled across the new Tawatinâ Bridge for the first time. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

Construction delays on the Valley Line Southeast LRT mean it will not be operational until sometime early next year. 

During a news conference Tuesday, a spokesperson for contractor TransEd said the project is no longer expected to be completed in 2021, but is now expected to be operational in the first three months of 2022.

The delays have been caused by a longer-than-expected testing process for the new trains, TransEd spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog said.

He said the project is 95 per cent complete overall, but COVID-19 has led to workforce shortages and supply chain issues for some construction supplies.

"COVID has had lots of different impacts," Lindskoog said. 

"We are seeing positive cases in our workforce ... that impacts our ability to move forward efficiently." 

He said TransEd is focused on ensuring that the system operates "exactly as it was designed" before it is turned over to the city. 

"The biggest delay that we've seen right now has been the impact of COVID. That combined with just the work to get the testing done and doing that carefully without taking any shortcuts. Those two things combined is what's pushed us into the first quarter of 2022." 

It's the latest in a string of delays for the project.

As of July, the public-private partnership project with TransEd was expected to be completed the end of 2021 — at least one year later than the consortium had originally anticipated.

The latest timeline for completion was revealed as a train rolled across Edmonton's new Tawatinâ Bridge for the first time and testing for the project moved north of the river.

The light rail vehicle's maiden trek across the North Saskatchewan River marks the beginning of a new phase for the $1.8-billion LRT system, TransEd said in a news release.

"This is a major milestone achievement for TransEd in the testing phase," Lindskoog said in a statement Tuesday. 

"This train movement expands our testing activity from the south to the north side of the river for the first time, where testing activity will soon occur in the new Quarters Tunnel and in the downtown core."

The route, stretching from downtown to Mill Woods, has been under construction since the spring of 2016. (Stephanie Dubois/CBC)

The route, stretching from downtown to Mill Woods, has been under construction since the spring of 2016.

The southeast leg of the LRT was initially supposed to be operational last December but construction has faced a series of delays.

The biggest hurdle came in spring 2018 when crews discovered a car-sized concrete slab nine metres below the surface of the North Saskatchewan River, delaying work on the Tawatinâ Bridge.

The project reached the testing and commissioning phase in July, when two Bombardier light rail vehicles hit the tracks at the Strathearn LRT stop on 95th Avenue between 87th Street and 89th Street.

To date, train testing has occurred south of the river.

The Valley Line Southeast LRT is now preparing for line-wide testing, Lindskoog said Tuesday. Train testing, including the energization of the overhead wires, will soon take place along all 13 kilometres of the line, he said.

A key feature of the Valley Line is that it does not include crossing arms, gates, or bells, Lindskoog said.

The line will instead operate in alignment with the traffic signalling system and the train driver's line-of-sight view.

A shared use path underneath the Tawatinâ bridge deck, featuring panels painted by local Indigenous artists, is slated to open late fall, Lindskoog said. 

Riders can expect a 30-minute commute between Mill Woods and downtown on the new line, which will feature:

  • An elevated station with a 1,300-spot park-and-ride facility and a full transit centre in the Wagner Industrial Area.
  • A short tunnel from the north face of the river valley through to the Quarters redevelopment.
  • An interchange point at Churchill Square to access the existing Metro and Capital LRT lines.

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