MYTH: The route was the result of a long public consultation process.
FACT: “The corridor selection process is not designed, nor intended, to collaborate with community and stakeholders to determine a recommended route” (SE to W LRT Public Involvement Report, 2008-2009).
The only consultation the city did on the route was with 12 corporate and institutional stakeholders (eg. Grey Nuns Hospital, Bonnie Doon shopping centre); these groups were presented with five options: High Level/CPR; High Level/Whyte Ave.; James MacDonald Bridge; Low Level Bridge; Dawson Bridge. None mentioned the Cloverdale footbridge corridor.
MYTH: This project is a done deal.
FACT: Edmonton has a historical precedent for halting a new transportation corridor through the river valley: in the 1970s, Mill Creek and MacKinnon Ravine freeway projects were both stopped at the eleventh hour. In the case of MacKinnon Ravine, a decade of planning had already occurred, the trees had been cleared the roadbed partially built, and storm sewers installed; one councillor stated, “We’ve made the decision to build it; we can’t back out now.” The city spent $2.76 million on this work before recognizing the project was not in the city’s best interest. The mayor at the time said, “If you’ve gone part way down the incorrect path, that’s regrettable—but not as regrettable as going all the way downy he incorrect path.” I think we would all agree today that halting the project was the right decision.
MYTH: This project represents short-term pain for long-term gain.
FACT: The current Valley Line LRT is an expensive mistake that will involve exponentially larger spin-off costs in the long term. While the city states the project’s main goal is to improve sustainability and a compact city core, it actually works against these goals by both destroying many things that draw people to the core.
Long-term, this route sacrifices the most important part of the downtown river valley, Chinatown, heritage buildings on Jasper Avenue, the Cloverdale footbridge, and the Edmonton Ski Hill—all incredible assets to our city. Furthermore, the route offers very little transit-oriented development potential because it runs mostly through the river valley, mature neighbourhoods, and light industrial areas. And it spends so much money doing so that it precludes public transit development elsewhere in the city for decades (35 years, according to the city’s latest projection—and that’s before they’ve begun tunnelling into the unstable Grierson river bank).
We need a pause on this project, and an open discussion in which we reassess our options, including BRT and expanded bus service.