The future Valley LRT line is a dream and a vision, represented today by lines on a city map.
Once built, it will run from Mill Woods in the southeast, through downtown, to Lewis Estates in the far west end.
That it has been controversial is no great surprise. Pushing LRT infrastructure through existing neighbourhoods is certain to negatively affect some or even many people.
The Valley Line alignment was approved in 2009. Yet last fall I met representatives of the Save the Footbridge group, who continue to protest the southeast alignment of the Valley Line.
Save the Footbridge argue the alignment is flawed and violates City policy to protect the environment, as well as parks and green space, especially in the river valley.
The southeast alignment crosses the river valley just west of Riverdale, over a planned LRT/pedestrian bridge that will replace the existing pedestrian bridge.
Since the late fall election I’ve answered numerous emails and personally held two evening meetings with the citizen group to listen to its concerns and questions. Last month, city staff and I, along with Councillor Amarjeet Sohi, also attended a community meeting in Riverdale.
The major focus of the evening was to reduce the effects of construction in and around Riverdale. However, many people wanted to talk about the approved route
Riverdale's Allan Shute proposed a new alignment, slightly further west, along Grierson Hill, with an added stop below the convention centre.
Absent any contradictory information that evening, Councillor Sohi and I promised to look into the merits of the route, which I jokingly dubbed the Shute Chute.
City administration, over the past two weeks, reviewed Shute’s proposal and prepared a report. It is attached here.
Estimates are the Shute route would cost the city upwards of an additional $80 million. Upwards, because the $80 million projection does not include additional engineering, inflation and public consultation.
Nor does that figure include the accrued loss to taxpayers if the City abandons the estimated $100 million already invested in preparing and designing the existing Southeast LRT route.
Three other things: 1) The proposed route would require the City to abandon its plans for an LRT stop in The Quarters; 2) Short of costly, major reconstruction of Grierson Hill, a stop below the convention centre would also not be feasible; 3) The federal grant of $250 million could be at risk.
Allan Shute’s proposal would also cause even greater impact to the river valley environment. More trees would be lost and yet another bridge would cross the river, with greater cumulative impacts on the aquatic ecology.
I want to assure the Save the Footbridge group, as well as other folks along the route, that their concerns were heard. Administration considered countless corridors and alignments during earlier work and took a good look at Allan Shute’s suggestion in the last two weeks.
No route is without negative impacts, on communities, residents and the urban and natural environment. I understand that this route will cause hardship for people who love the existing footbridge and for those who will be detoured around Louise McKinney park during the two years of construction.
I’m satisfied, though, that city administration has always evaluated LRT alignments under council’s direction and with broad civic interests in mind.
As I mentioned in previous communications, my survey of other councillors revealed no interest in debating this issue again.
For that reason, and for reasons detailed above and in the administration report, I will not push for any change to the Valley Line alignment.
I will continue to work with administration and residents in Ward 6 to lessen the impact of construction and ensure the best possible outcome for LRT, which is critical to Edmonton’s sustainable future, both environmentally and economically.