Terwillegar Drive, Stadium LRT get funding despite tight budgets

Two long-awaited capital projects in Edmonton will go ahead after city council approved millions of dollars in funding Friday despite tighter operating and capital budgets for 2020 to 2022. 

Terwillegar Drive will get $102 million in upgrades that will widen the expressway at the interchange with the Whitemud, and create designated rapid-transit lanes in each direction from Rabbit Hill Road to the Whitemud.

A multi-use path will be built along that same stretch of road.

Tim Cartmell, councillor for Ward 9, has been pushing for the upgrades for about 20 years, since long before he was elected to council.

"I feel, quite frankly, great," Cartmell said after the vote. "This a responsible use of dollars. It layers on transit, it layers on active transportation. I really think this will be the model that we use going forward."

It's a modified version of the original $112-million plan approved in last year's capital budget, which included widening several intersections between Whitemud and Anthony Henday Drive.

In October, the province ended a grant program called the Alberta Community Transit (ACT) fund, which would have given the city $90 million for green infrastructure projects.

Following the provincial cuts, councillors asked city administration to re-evaluate several projects and report back with versions the city could fund on its own. 

"The rejigging of this project and resequencing of the debt actually reduces the tax levy in 2020 for this project," Cartmell said. "So the amount we're borrowing goes down in the short-term and the amount we're paying for therefore goes down."

Stadium LRT 

Council also approved $29 million to upgrade the Stadium LRT station on the Capital Line. 

Coun. Tony Caterina said people in his ward have been waiting a long time for the decision.

"This was one priority project that absolutely needed to be done," he said. "The capital line is 40-something years old, older than our mayor, older than some councillors." 

Caterina said the station's design is not up to modern standards, since it forces people to go downstairs and back upstairs to get to the platform and has blind corners and dark spaces.

"It fits virtually no standards today," he said. 

He noted that a developer has already invested $50 million into adjacent lands based on renewal of the station.

Council also approved nearly $6 million for transit improvements along the corridor connecting the Heritage Valley Park and Ride to the Century Park LRT Station.

@natashariebe