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Alberta cities planning for growth with LRT integration

Russell Hixson
Alberta cities planning for growth with LRT integration
CITY OF EDMONTON — A rendering shows part of Edmonton's Valley Line. Officials from Edmonton and Calgary gave updates on various LRT projects at this year's Urban Transit Infrastructure National Symposium.

Planning for future city growth and seamlessly integrating it is key for Alberta transit development, say officials working on Edmonton and Calgary LRT projects.

Officials from Calgary’s Green Line and Edmonton’s Valley Line presented updates on their respective city’s LRT projects at the Urban Transit Infrastructure National Symposium, hosted by The Canadian Institute. 

Brad Smid, director for the Valley Line, said Valley Line Southeast is currently under construction but is scheduled to wrap up this year.

“This is the first of our urban style, low floor systems,” said Smid, who noted it is also the city’s first P3 project. “It is a different approach with more closely spaced stations that we are really integrating into communities. We are calling it ‘sustainable urban integration.’ That’s the philosophy that we approach our entire design with.”

Smid said the city is using a wide variety of project delivery methods and financing strategies to deliver LRT projects through a consolidated LRT project office. Edmonton recently awarded a design-build-finance contract for the Valley Line West project in December, a task that Smid noted was made more challenging due to the pandemic.

“We are really proud to see it underway. With dogged determination we were able to pull that off.”

Other upcoming projects include Metro Line Northwest from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to the Blatchford Neighbourhood and an eight kilometre extension of the Capital Line to South Edmonton.

“LRT is not just about transportation projects,” said Smid. “It is about city shaping projects that will enable us to welcome a million more people in the next decade without having to expand our boundaries.”

Asif Kurji, senior executive adviser for Calgary’s Green Line, gave an update on the project and addressed concerns about the construction pause and governance changes. The city hit the brakes on construction work starting this summer after provincial officials expressed concern over the design and scope.

Kurji explained it is not abnormal for massive projects to pause or undergo changes because billions of dollars are being spent and due diligence must be done.

“A pause or talk of challenge can raise red flags but we have that collaborative relationship with the province and we are meeting daily and doing a lot of work to set us up for those big contracts,” said Kurji.

He added just because major construction work on the project has been paused, doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made. The project team is nearly ready to announce plans to begin utility relocation work which will take several years.

“This will help serve our growing city,” said Kurji. “Since 1985 the population has doubled and it is likely to double again in the next 60 years. We want to attract and retain people, businesses and investment.” 

The Green Line, which would run north to south, would enable more than 220,000 trips a day along its 46-kilometre route.

Kurji said the Green Line Board, a group of diverse experts that will provide oversight on the project, was announced in January. He believes their knowledge of law, engineering, economics, planning, finance and more will bring value to the team.

“The board is very engaged, and very thoughtful,” said Kurji. “We are lucky to have them.”


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