Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Downtown to NAIT

By Gordon Kent, Edmonton Journal

"Work on Edmonton's first northern LRT extension could start this fall after the federal and provincial governments agreed to fund the NAIT line instead of a new Gorman station.
Although the two senior levels of government announced in April $140 million in economic stimulus money would go to build Gorman, city officials who saw NAIT as a higher LRT priority pushed for a new direction.
Labour Minister Rona Ambrose has now approved the change, according to a city report released Thursday.
The provincial government is willing to go along as well, treasury board spokesman Gerald Kastendieck said.
"It's actually something between the city and the federal government ...That's something they can work out. As long as they're agreed, the province is fine with that."
The grants will help pay for the $280-million first stage of the project, which will link Churchill Station with Grant MacEwan College.
If cash arrives by September, crews can begin relocating power lines and storm sewers this fall in preparation for the start of major work early next year, said Brad Griffith, director of LRT design and construction.
While most of the tunnel under the new Epcor tower is done, underground links to Churchill Station and west to where tracks reach daylight between 103rd Street and 104th Street near 105th Avenue must be built, Griffith said.
The Grant MacEwan station could open between 104th Street and 105th Street in the spring of 2013, although councillors must still approve a source for the remaining$70 million needed for that segment.
The city hopes to receive another $500 million from the provincial Green Trip program to take the $800-million project to NAIT the following year.
Coun. Kim Krushell, a longtime advocate for the line, was thrilled the other two levels of government are on board. "To try to do Gorman right now on top of the NAIT line, we could be in a situation where we're doing two at the same time and not able to do anything," she said.
"It doesn't mean that Gorman isn't a future option. It's just that we need our LRT to hook up all to four postsecondary institutions and hospitals. That's more of a priority for our citizens."
A separate report going to council next Wednesday recommends the city continue negotiating to buy the land needed for the Gorman line, a bus loop and a parking lot.
Creating a satellite lot, similar to the one approved in Heritage Valley to serve the Century Park LRT station, along with neighbourhood planning and construction, would cost about $50 million, the report says"

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