LRT, Road Construction & Fires!

It has been an interesting week in Edmonton! This week City Council determined the next phase of LRT Construction adding the new Valley Line from downtown to Lewis Farms and extending the Metro Line from NAIT to Blatchford including potential upgrades near Kingsway Mall. We also prioritized areas for LRT design including the Metro Line, North Blatchford to Campbell Road for preliminary engineering. I was very pleased we were able to come together and ensure that work is going forward in all quadrants of our city. I hope that funding will allow us to build the Metro Line completely sooner than later.

ARGH! I have been hearing and seeing many frustrated motorists along 127 Street. In the north part between 167 Avenue and 137 Avenue, the installation of a new Atco gas line has seen traffic reduced to one lane each way and limited access for turning left into neighborhoods and services. In the south, the reconstruction of 127 St between Yellowhead and 118 Avenue has seen the total closure of southbound lanes and only one lane north. This too has limited access into and out of neighborhoods. Like many of you, it has extended my commute and daily activities and has frustrated me. I don’t like sitting in traffic.

Then I heard the shocking news about the evacuations in Fort McMurray. In one instant the lives of 80 000 people were changed. The are calling this the largest evacuation in the history of Alberta and with an estimated $9 Billion in damage this is shaping up to be the single largest insurance event in the history of Canada. But it wasn’t the facts or the numbers that got me. It was the story of family after family fleeing their homes, heading in any direction that was safe. It was the video of cars fighting bottlenecked traffic as ash and ember flew through the smoke-stained skies. Some reported travelling for as many as 10 or 11 hours just to get to Edmonton…

So now when I sit in my car in traffic for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in just doesn’t seem so bad… not much as changed… only my perspective. I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of Edmontonians, Albertans, and Canadians. It is in these moments that we truly pull together as a community, whether it’s a pancake breakfast, donation drive, or the volunteers tirelessly working at the Edmonton Evacuation Centre at Northlands caring for these families, it’s these moments that remind what makes Edmonton great…

My Thoughts on the Recent Blatchford Discussions

I am dizzy from spinning and spinning! Discussions about Blatchford are like sitting on a merry go round.   At first it’s fun, but the repetitious circling creates nausea.   Council has been committed to the Master Plan Principles to make Blatchford a carbon neutral community.   Over the last two days we were supposed to be debating a District Energy Sharing System and determine where to go with this aspect of Blatchford.   To date, we have been on time and under budget. The runways are gone and recycled, buildings have been taken down and removed and even sold when possible. Remediation is complete.

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We are ready to go on a District Energy system and were set to look at two options brought to council.   Meanwhile both the Provincial and Federal governments are interested in supporting such initiatives.   We unanimously agreed as a Council to reach out and advocate to the different levels of governments to see if indeed funding might be available to help us with this work.   To me, that is being a responsible steward of the project and not compromising our principles.

 

We also heard for the first time from EPCOR who are interested in working with us on this project. We agreed that it was in our best interest to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a renewable energy utility model for Blatchford.   They presented Council with very high level options of wind and solar to us and we are going to need more than a high level look at these options before we can responsibly make any decision.

 

Unfortunately, these decisions do mean a delay of up to one year for development on Blatchford.   District Energy is proven technology but it must be complemented with other energy sources to meet our vision for Blatchford.

 

Throughout the process we have engaged experts at various points to ensure we had good understanding of what is needed.   We have a Business Advisory Group, which includes developers and environmental specialists.   We also have a Community Stakeholder group, consisting of representatives from the surrounding communities and businesses.

 

Some have used the opportunity to discuss District Energy as the opportunity to question whether we as a City should be pursing the development of Blatchford at all.

 

I remain true to the vision, but feel we need to be responsible stewards of the development.   I also believe we must continue to work towards this and trust we can be nimble and develop the site according to the principles as funds are available.