Edmonton

LRT trains begin testing on Edmonton's Valley Line Southeast

LRT trains are finally rolling on Edmonton's Valley Line Southeast, as the delayed city transit project reaches the testing and commissioning phase.

Results will help determine timeline for opening, TransEd spokesperson says

Dallas Lindskoog, TransEd’s communications manager, stands on the platform Tuesday at the Valley Line Southeast LRT's stop in Strathearn, southeast of downtown. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

LRT trains are finally rolling on Edmonton's Valley Line Southeast, as the delayed city transit project reaches the testing and commissioning phase.

Two Bombardier light rail vehicles are now on the tracks at the Strathearn LRT stop on 95th Avenue between 87th Street and 89th Street.

This week's arrival of the cars marks an important step forward for the $1.8-billion system, contractor TransEd said in a news release.

The train is now undergoing a series of tests under "a broad range of scenarios" to ensure safety systems are working on the 11-stop line, TransEd said.

The tests are being conducted on the rail line from the Strathearn stop, along Connors Road, to the Muttart stop. Tests will be done intermittently over a period of up to 14 days.

No firm timeline for completion

The 13-kilometre route, stretching from downtown to Mill Woods, has been under construction since the spring of 2016.

The $1.8-billion public-private partnership project with TransEd is now scheduled to open by the end of the year, at least one year later than the consortium had anticipated.

During a news conference at the Strathearn stop Tuesday, TransEd spokesperson Dallas Lindskoog would not commit to a firmer timeline for completion. He said how quickly the line opens will depend on how smoothly the ongoing testing goes. 

Lindskoog said testing is already underway on six of the line's 14 segments of track. Each train car involved in the testing is loaded with bags of silica sand to the weight of a full car of commuters.

Any issues found will be resolved before the system is handed over to the city, he said. 

"Is there a possibility that things could be found to be incorrect? Absolutely, it will happen," he said. "We'll find wires that are not connected correctly. We'll get those corrected ... it's a necessary step in the process." 

'An important step forward'

In a news release, Lindskoog said the testing will allow residents to see "the contemporary look of these trains and witness how the low-floor system moves and integrates with the environment."

Most train testing to date has occurred in the Mill Woods area at the south end of the line.

"It represents the first time that Strathearn, Avonmore, Bonnie Doon and neighbouring residents will have the opportunity to observe the Valley Line Southeast trains in their community," Lindskoog said.

The route is the first leg of the Valley Line LRT, a 27-kilometre line that will operate between Mill Woods and Lewis Farms in west Edmonton.

Each of the light rail vehicles undergoing testing are loaded down with silica sand bags to simulate riders and full trains. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

The southeast leg 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.

Extricating the mysterious hunk of concrete delayed work on the Tawatinâ Bridge, a crucial structure for the Valley Line.

Lindskoog said the project has been a large and complex undertaking but TransEd remains committed to giving Edmontonians "the best system possible."

"We're committed to getting this done no matter what, no matter the time it takes and no matter the financial implications that may come with that." 

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.
A rendering of the Davies station, the only elevated station on Edmonton's Valley Line Southeast LRT, which is expected to be operational by the end of this year. (City of Edmonton)

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