City Pitches LRT Crossing At Grade For Congested 109 Street-104 Avenue Intersection

 Rendering of Stony Plain Road-149 Street underpass, facing northeast. Shown at west-end Valley Line LRT open house on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

Rendering of Stony Plain Road-149 Street underpass, facing northeast. Shown at west-end Valley Line LRT open house on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

Edmonton officials are recommending the city leave LRT tracks running at grade across downtown’s busy 109 Street-104 Avenue intersection, even though it’s already congested.

Project manager Eva Cheung said raised tracks would be an eyesore and tunnelling would be expensive, giving little extra value since traffic backs up from the High Level Bridge. 

But the decision shocked some drivers at Wednesday’s open house at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, 10127 145 St. 

“It’s a big bottleneck. As it is, that MacEwan intersection is congested,” said Salim Keshwani, wading through a packed church auditorium to see the city’s new plans. 

 Salim Keshwani said the intersection of 104 Avenue and 109 Street is already congested.

Salim Keshwani said the intersection of 104 Avenue and 109 Street is already congested.

“They should go underground,” added Joseph David, who often drives through that intersection. “It’s going to cost more, but Edmonton’s going to grow. They’re going to have to tear it up again and do it properly.”

City officials hosted the open house to update residents on plans for the 14-kilometre west leg of the Valley Line, from downtown to West Edmonton Mall, which is heading to a public hearing March 21.

Council asked officials to examine where the track should be elevated or tunnelled to avoid traffic snarls seen on the Metro Line before it goes to tender. 

Officials are recommending the west LRT tracks be elevated over 170 and 178 streets.

On Wednesday, they also released a recommendation for 149 Street to be sunk, leaving the LRT tracks at grade along Stony Plain Road.

Capture.JPG

Concerned about businesses

That would have less impact along Stony Plain Road, a key redevelopment opportunity, but it would increase the amount of land the city needs to expropriate compared to at-grade intersection crossings.

“There’s two lines of businesses not there, one on each side of the road,” said Diane Kereluk, head of the local business association, looking at renderings on display.

She’s been lobbying the city to change Stony Plain Road to a one-way route to preserve existing shops.

City officials have not done an impact study for existing businesses along the route, other than to measure the amount of land required. “There might be potential for future redevelopment,” Cheung said.

Arguments for street level 

Regarding the 109 Street crossing, Cheung said planners looked at a tunnel or raised track, but the impact would be significant.

The track turns at 107 Street and 104 Avenue. A raised track would leave the ground around 103 Avenue and 107 Street, include a raised station and wouldn’t return to grade until 111 Street and 104 Avenue. 

It would be a visual and often physical barrier for that full stretch. The extent of the tunnel would be similar and roughly 10 times more expensive than at grade. 

West-end Coun. Sarah Hamilton said the decision won’t be easy. With MacEwan University there, the intersection needs to be pedestrian friendly. She worried that wouldn’t happen with an elevated track.