News Online: LRT line along Stony Plain Road could go underground

Published online at on March 22, 2011.

Linda Hoang, Global News: Tuesday, March 22, 2011

LRT line along Stony Plain Road could go underground

Traffic congestion caused by a proposed LRT line along Stony Plain Road may force the train underground.

The tunnel would only be a few blocks long but would cost $300 million to build.

Despite the cost, at least one city councillor says it’s an idea worth considering.

The proposed west-to-southeast line that would run along Stony Plain Road would take up two of the road’s current four lanes of traffic.

The line has some business owners along the route worried, including Dennis Aronyk, who owns a bicycle shop that would see the proposed line run right outside his store.

“It’s just going to make congestion worse,” Aronyk said. “It might cause some people to stop using Stony Plain Road.”

It’s concerns like Aronyk’s that have Coun. Karen Leibovici asking the city to consider burying the line underground instead.

But running the track underground from 142 Street to 156 Street would cost an additional $300 million.

“It’s really important we get this right,” Leibovici said. “It’s a lot of money and we have to make the right decisions for our citizens.”

What that right decision is, Leibovici isn’t completely sure, but says an underground tunnel would help traffic in the area.

“We knew it was going to be expensive but when you look at the flipside of the coin in terms of the impact on congestion and the environment, I think it starts to balance out,” she said.

“And again this is a line your building for the next 100 years. It’s not something you build and in 10 years, 15 years, go back and fix. We need to do this right and if it means we have to spend more to do it right then this is an expenditure for the next 100 years.”

But others disagree.

“I think we’ve always known it was expensive. I also think it will start building a system which won’t integrate into the neighbourhoods as well,” said Coun. Ben Henderson.

“I don’t think it will be particularly useful to them once you start doing underground stations it becomes really problematic both in terms of cost and in terms of land we would need.”

Henderson also said there are safety concerns by going underground.

“Underground stations are never going to be as safe as ones that you can see when it drives by,” he said.

The city’s head of transportation doesn’t want to sacrifice a transit vision to please a vocal few, either.

“The more transit we can build, the greater distance we can go has a higher value than really putting in a tunnel for a short distance really for nuisanec and inconvenience,” said Bob Boutilier, the city’s general manager of transportation.

He adds that once the line is implemented, there will technically be less traffic in the area.

“We’re not expecting to build this LRT system and then the current traffic that you see today continues to grow at that level. This is a way to de-congest the roadways,” Boutilier said.

“People who are currently use the road who are complaining about congestion should see a reduction.”

Although Aronyk still has LRT doubts, he says a $300 million dollar tunnel is excessive.

“My initial thought is maybe the money could be better spent,” he said.

With files from Fletcher Kent

Click here to read the article on the Global Edmonton website.

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