The Valley Line is (finally) opening: Here's how we got to this point

A lot has changed in the city in 15 years, but one constant has been the seemingly never-ending Valley Line saga.

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After many years of setbacks, Valley Line southeast, the 13-kilometre stretch of LRT from Mill Woods to Downtown, is set to open Nov. 4.

Planning on the line started nearly 15 years ago. Stephen Mandel was mayor. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was still a councillor, and had a stint as a federal cabinet minister ahead of him. The Oilers were just at the start of their Decade of Darkness. The Elks were still called the Eskimos and they were competitive. (They were last in the West in 2008, but made the CFL East Division Final.)

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A lot has changed in the city in 15 years, but one constant has been the seemingly never-ending Valley Line saga.

Here’s a look at how the project unfolded.

January 2008: As former mayor Stephen Mandel calls for his fellow city leaders to press the provincial government for more money to build LRT, city council also endorses a motion from then-councillor Amarjeet Sohi to expedite planning for a line to Mill Woods. City planners began drafting LRT extensions in southeast and west Edmonton.

Early 2009: Planning begins on a Mill Woods to Downtown route.

December 2009: City council approves LRT expansion to NAIT, west Edmonton and the southeast, setting the stage to seek funding for the projects. At the time, the southeast leg was estimated to cost $900 million to $1.2 billion. During public consultations, a transit official told the public that if funding came through, trains could be running to Mill Woods by 2014.

January 2011: City council officially greenlights the southeast LRT alignment, solidifying the track’s route and station locations.

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May 2012: After spending much of 2011 wrestling with the question of how to pay for more LRT, city council makes the call for the southeast line to be a public-private partnership (P3), with plans to apply to the federal P3 fund. Coun. Don Iveson said at the time, “Frankly, doing this seems to be the only way we can get federal funding.”

March 2013: The federal government announces $250 million in funding from the P3 Canada Fund.

March 2013: The name Valley Line is announced.

August 2013: The Valley Line southeast is pushed back from its initial 2019 opening target as city council decides against borrowing $515 million to get it started, and waits for the provincial and federal governments to solidify their funding commitments instead. At this point, the total price tag has been updated to $1.8 billion.

November 2013: The preliminary design of the 27-km line from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms is completed.

Premier Alison Redford and Mayor Don Iveson chat before an LRT funding news conference at Churchill Station in Edmonton on March 11, 2014. Perry Mah/Postmedia, file Photo by Perry Mah /Perry Mah/Edmonton Sun/QMI Agenc

March 2014: Premier Alison Redford announces a $600-million assistance package for the Valley Line southeast, filling the final missing piece for the city to hire a construction consortium.

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August 2014: The city announces a three-name shortlist of bidders for the P3 project.

February 2016: The City of Edmonton signs a contract with TransEd partners — a group led by Bechtel, Bombardier, EllisDon and Fengate Capital Management — to build the Valley Line southeast and maintain it for 30 years.

Valley line
Federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister and Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault, left, Coun. Amarjeet Sohi, Mayor Don Iveson and TransEd’s Scott McGeachy grab gold shovels during a ground breaking ceremony for the Valley Line LRT near the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton on April 22, 2016. Demonstrators from Save Our Footbridge held placards behind the politicians while the groundbreaking was held. Ian Kucerak/Postmedia Photo by Ian Kucerak /Ian Kucerak/Edmonton Sun

April 2016: Politicians mark a groundbreaking ceremony for Valley Line construction, with plans to build from Mill Woods Town Centre to Downtown and open the LRT expansion in 2020.

March 2018: A construction complication emerges as crews discover a “car-sized” concrete slab buried nine metres under a platform where crews are building a bridge across the North Saskatchewan River. The issue holds up work for more than two months, putting the bridge completion behind schedule.

December 2019: After the quarterly report on the project says progress is roughly 30 per cent behind where it should be, TransEd says the project won’t be finished until “at least” 2021, partly owing to the concrete slab delays.

October 2021: TransEd says the goal to welcome riders by the end of the year won’t be met, with COVID-19 affecting both their workforce and the supply chain. A new opening date is set for early 2022.

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December 2021: The Valley Line completion deadline is revised again, to summer 2022, with pandemic impacts again cited as the reason.

Scaffolding surrounds some of the concrete piers along the elevated section of the Valley Line LRT. On Sept. 2, 2022, is was announced 30 of the 45 piers will need reinforcement, up from the 18 initially estimated. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia, file

August 2022: With work on the southeast transit expansion all but completed, TransEd announces a fourth delay due to cracks discovered in many of the piers that support the elevated LRT track. More construction will be needed to strengthen as many as 18 concrete piers, and it’s still unclear just how much longer Edmontonians could wait for the southeast line that’s almost two years behind schedule.

December 2022: TransEd announces the completion of repairs to cracked piers and state the hope is to open the line “as soon as possible.”

April 2023: Concerns were raised about the safety of the line after a man sleeping near the tracks was hit by a train. This followed a number of collisions involving vehicles turning right against traffic signals.

June 2023: TransEd announces yet another delay for the Valley Line, stating that 140 km of signalling line needed to be replaced after some were found to be oxidized. The replacement would “improve the long-term system reliability” on the line.

September 2023: TransEd announces the cable replacement along the line has been completed and that the line can resume testing in preparation for a fall opening.

October 2023: The city announces a Nov. 4 opening date for the line.

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