Halt west Valley Line LRT expansion, councillor says

A southwest Edmonton councillor is arguing the city ought to put the brakes on plans to build a west LRT expansion, despite a funding promise from the province announced last week.

Ward 9 Coun. Tim Cartmell published a blog post Wednesday arguing the city should cancel plans to build the Valley Line LRT expansion to west Edmonton until after the provincial election in the spring, and “preferably” until after the southeast expansion of the LRT is completed.

Final design for the expansion to Lewis Farms got the green-light from council’s urban planning committee in late October, and days later the province announced it would kick in $1.04 billion to build the line, amounting to about 40 per cent of the total funding for the project with an estimated price tag between $2 billion to $2.5 billion.

Cartmell said he’s worried that if the United Conservative Party comes to power following the 2019 provincial election, opposition leader Jason Kenney will make good on his promise to scrap the current government’s carbon tax, which Premier Rachel Notley said is where the funding for the LRT expansion is coming from.

“If city council backs the west LRT, and funding support evaporates, the west LRT could become the only project we can afford to build for many years,” Cartmell wrote. “If the city has to go it alone on the west LRT, it will consume all of our available borrowing capacity and we won’t be able to build much of anything else.”

Following the provincial funding announcement, opposition house leader Jason Nixon said the UCP would not cancel projects already approved if the party is elected in 2019.

“(UCP Leader) Jason Kenney has also been extremely clear existing projects that have already been approved … would continue under our government,” he told reporters.

Cartmell said that while he would like to support the project, and is generally supportive of mass transit, he doesn’t think this particular project is prudent or completely well thought out, citing possible vehicle traffic congestion issues and the potential for being transit technology to come along that would make the proposed low-floor tram obsolete.

More to come..

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