LRT to west Edmonton could cost more than estimated, report suggests

The Valley Line LRT to the west end could cost more than previously thought, if the city implements some new recommendations in a report released Tuesday.

The report, prepared by the city’s integrated infrastructure services, includes seven recommendations on changing the current design of the 27-kilometre line from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms. 

The changes require amending the original concept plan from 2013 and would put the cost of the project to about $2.24 billion, up from the previous $1.8 billion. 

“That estimate is not a surprise at this stage,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “It might be a little higher than what I was thinking but ballpark it was going to be 2-point something if there were two additional grade separations. So it’s not a huge surprise.” 

Mayor Don Iveson says $2.24 billion isn’t a huge jump from the original estimates for the Valley Line LRT. (CBC)

The department recommends putting an elevated crossing from 178th Street at 87th Avenue to just east of 182th Street.

“That makes a ton of sense for the amount of money that would cost, since it’s already an above-ground station at West Edmonton Mall,” Coun. Andrew Knack said.

However, Knack said he’s not convinced the line needs to be separated from traffic at the 149th street interchange, as suggested by city administration.

In that scenario, the LRT track and Stony Plain Road would remain at ground level with 149th Street passing underneath.

Knack thinks the money could be used to ease traffic congestion around the entire city and has suggested the city look into artificial intelligence at traffic signals.

“I don’t know if that’s the solution, but that’s just one idea,” he said. “How many new traffic signals could we buy for $165 million, and what impact would that have city wide.”  

The report comes after council asked staff to re-evaluate the preliminary design, completed in 2013. Specifically, city LRT teams were asked to look at “grade separations” at busy intersections to see if separating the track from other traffic would ease congestion and improve travel times. 

Knack said the cost of two separations at 178th and 149th streets would account for $230 million.

“Almost all of that increase would be made up just through those two grade separations,” he said.

City council will hold a public hearing March 21 to hear feedback on the proposed design changes.

Iveson said confidence in completing the west portion of the Valley Line and future LRT extensions will depend on a “long-term commitment from the province.”

The Alberta government will unveil its 2018 budget next week. 

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