Valley Line LRT to Mill Woods delayed a further 6 months, documents say

The southeast leg of the Valley Line LRT will open six months later than expected, according to documents obtained by CBC News. 

The city's latest timeline had the 13-kilometre line linking Mill Woods to downtown opening on Dec. 15, 2020.

However, a revised construction schedule from April 2019 obtained by CBC News last week through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, projects a "six months delay to service commencement."

The schedule was part of a monthly project-status report prepared in May by SMA Consulting Ltd., a company hired by the City of Edmonton to help manage the project.

CBC News requested reports over a seven-month period starting in December 2018, but received only some of the reports.

As of last week, the City of Edmonton and TransEd, a consortium of companies involved with constructing the line, would not commit to any specific timelines.

Stephanie Dubois/CBC

"The service commencement is trending late and likely will be delayed," said Brad Smid, the city's project director for the Valley Line LRT.

"At this point, we're not going to commit to any date beyond saying sometime in 2021."

As of Friday, the project is "over 60 per cent complete," Smid said.

TransEd contract manager Dallas Lindskoog said construction crews have "made a lot of progress in a lot of areas of the job," but that the project is still behind.

Everyone's disappointed when we can't deliver these things on the original target date that's set - Brad Smid, Valley Line LRT project director

"We are trending late into 2021 for sure and we do expect that we will be done as soon as possible in 2021. We're working hard towards that, but certainly we will be a little bit late," he said. 

Unexpected concrete mass

The biggest construction delay for the $1.8-billion line was a large concrete mass found nine metres below the surface of the North Saskatchewan River during the Tawatinâ Bridge construction. 

Since then, TransEd crews have been trying to make up the lost time, Lindskoog said.

TransEd was able to make up some time, according to internal documents. The November-December 2018 monthly update to the city showed TransEd projected an eight-month service delay in its revised construction schedule. 

Other delays

There are also delays in the shipment by Bombardier of the light rail vehicles (LRVs).

The 26 LRVs for the southeast Valley Line LRT were supposed to be delivered to Edmonton by the end of November 2019, according to the January 2019 monthly report to the city.

Only seven LRVs were in Edmonton as of Friday, according to Smid.

"We're confident that we will have enough trains here for maximum service level. So we're not seeing lack of trains being a risk to starting service on the system," he said.

P3 penalties

The southeast portion of the Valley Line LRT is funded under a public-private partnership.

Any delays to the service start date means TransEd will be penalized, Smid said.

"There will be financial consequences. And that's built into the P3 model. Taxpayers are protected by the risk transfer and those mechanisms in the project agreement," he said.

"We are disappointed. I know TransEd is disappointed. Everyone's disappointed when we can't deliver these things on the original target date that's set. But we have seen measurable progress and you know we're continuing to work to get this through to the finish line." 

As of Friday, the Valley Line LRT project is "moving from a civil road and rail construction" to the installation of overhead power for the trains and communication systems for the line, Lindskoog said. 

Lindskoog expects trains will be tested in the Mill Woods section of the line in early 2020.