A Cheaper LRT for City of Edmonton

City of Edmonton
As the City of Edmonton continues with its plans to extend the light transit railway from downtown to Millwoods I can only shake my head in amazement at some of their decisions.

It appears as if the city council is determined to build the much needed LRT without any concern about how they spend the taxpayers’ money. A few years ago when the LRT was built across the Saskatchewan River to the University of Alberta, city council ended up building a brand new bridge across the river. It cost millions of dollars to build the bridge, which accommodates bicycles as well as the commuter train while the railway tracks atop the historic High Level Bridge remain unused. The tracks were originally used by the Canadian Pacific Railway to bring trains across the river but the company abandoned them years ago and they have sat vacant ever since.

To give the city council at that time some credit, there were some discussions with the railway company about the possibility of purchasing the right to use the tracks. After all, it did seem to be the most practical and least expensive way to bring the LRT across the river. However, the city and CP Rail couldn’t come to any agreement and the idea of using the High Level was shelved. I still can’t figure out why the talks failed as it seemed like a win-win situation for the city and railway company. The railway would get money from an asset that has been completely useless to it for years and the city would end up saving a lot of money by using the High Level Bridge instead of building a new bridge.
Now, with city council announcing plans to bring the LRT to Millwoods, it is once again bypassing the use of existing structure and opting once again for the spending extra millions of dollars on a brand new route.

The route calls for the passenger train to be underground from the downtown area to the river where a new bridge would be built across the river. The train would then go south alongside Conners Road and make its way in a southeasterly direction to Millwoods. It’s my believe that city council could save a lot of money by bringing the train across the river to the Strathcona area where there are already railroad tracks in existence. The tracks are rarely used by the railroad company and the LRT could run parallel 99 Street and be at least as far south as 61 Avenue before any completely new tracks would have to be constructed and they could angle east from there.

Surely this idea is worth at least some kind of discussion with the railway company but apparently there hasn’t been any talks between the city and the railway. All it would take would be the building of tunnels at some major intersections and the LRT would be in Millwoods at a fraction of the cost the current plans call for. With the money saved, the city could have an LRT running into the Capilano area and perhaps even into Sherwood Park where thousands of residents use their cars to make the daily trek into Edmonton for work.

Written By: Milton Cust

2 Responses to "A Cheaper LRT for City of Edmonton"

  1. Nick V   September 15, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I’d rather see the top deck of the high level be converted into southbound traffic lanes with the current deck being northbound so that we could at least have two way traffic on such a busy road of our city into downtown.

    Reply
  2. Sam P   September 15, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Ahhh, the devil is in the details. I agree with your sentiments but . . .

    My memory is a bit fuzzy but CP was holding out for, I think, about 25M $ for the bridge which was in a glorious state of disrepair. CP had basically abandoned anything but essential maintenance and the bridge was in desperate need of an overhaul worth about 20M $.

    On top of that, the LRT exit on the South side of the HL bridge is expen$ive to anywhere past Whyte Ave with your choice of poison. The CP route under the apartment building on Sask drive was a no-go (needed to be doubled with no room and a hostile fight with the building owners. 109St expropriation would entail a bitter fight with the community and possibly the UofA getting involved and pushing their opinion/agenda.

    UofA definitely wanted a station on campus with a direct to downtown link and no station/line switching.

    Overall, there was very little cost savings going over the High Level instead of building a completely new bridge that worked well with the existing LRT infrastructure.

    There were a bunch of other reasons why they choose to build instead of buy and in review it was likely the best decision.

    Note: CP lost their bargaining position when the decision to build was made and they ended up selling the bridge for a dollar (I think … correct me if I am wrong).

    Again, memory is fuzzy but that is more less what I believe the situation was.

    BTW, the problem of getting from the South end of the HL to Whyte and beyond remains a costly proposition with a lot of potential court battles.

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