News: LRT a budget buster

Published in the April 30th issue of The Edmonton Sun. News

LRT a budget buster

Edmonton Sun

The LRT expansion of lines to NAIT, southeast and west Edmonton will cost more than $3 billion to construct and be the single largest project the city has ever taken on.

“Put in order of magnitude, that’s basically the entire capital budget for several years consumed by this [project],” said transportation manager Bob Boutilier.

The $3-$3.6 billion figure was announced Thursday, when a report was released outlining details on ways the city can speed up construction of the LRT so lines are completed in time for Expo 2017.

“The reason why we want to get this fast-tracking under way because there are opportunities to do land purchase now,” Boutilier said. “We can meet the 2017 Expo date, it is do-able.”

Raising taxes between one and two per cent, re-distributing money through city departments and finding new sources of funding through partnerships, are some of the funding options the city will look at in order to cover costs of the expansion.

The city may also have to sacrifice future projects to make the LRT lines a top priority.

“There are a lot of future capital programs that would have come forward in the next three-year program that won’t come forward,” said Boutilier. “It’s the requirement not to add future stuff in the budget that will be the challenge.”

Although it is still not known whether the city will win the bid for the world’s fair, Boutilier says starting and finishing the expansion as soon as possible is the best option even if the city loses the Expo 2017 bid.

“By the time the decision is made, if we’re not already down the road on planning, we’ll never get this thing done,” Boutilier said. “The quicker we get this done, the quicker we see the benefits.”

Currently there is no plan for how or in what order the LRT expansion will be built, so long as construction is fully complete by the end of 2016.

“That’s the only target we’ve been given.”

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