Mayor: “It Makes No Sense” to Defer Twin Brooks Station

Council shoots down two of three Capital LRT-extension motions proposed by Jennifer Rice
Strathearn LRT

In baseball, a .333 batting average is pretty darn good.

In city politics, not so much.

This week, Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi Coun. Jennifer Rice introduced three motions that could affect the planned $1.085-billion Capital Line LRT extension south from Century Park to Heritage Valley North, a planned station that would sit just north of Ellerslie Road.

Only one of them passed. Her motion that calls on administration to examine the options when it comes to separating the tracks from Ellerslie Road was greenlighted by her fellow councillors.

But two of her asks went down in flames. She wanted the City to consider deferring the planned Twin Brooks station, and to build a concrete wall that would insulate that neighbourhood from the sound of the trains. Only Tim Cartmell and Karen Principe joined Rice in supporting those motions.

It was a rebuke of the populism that Rice had been trumpeting in council.

“I have listened to my constituents who have overwhelmingly told me they want the LRT extension built right,” she said.

Twin Brooks residents felt that they had been promised the wall, but administration told council that it was a miscommunication. What administration claimed is that the City would do what it could to see if a concrete sound barrier could be built, but later found out a gas utility line would need to be relocated, and that would affect up to 100 homes in the neighbouring Blue Quill community.

And, in a recent survey of Twin Brooks residents, more than 1,000 — representing almost 60 per cent of those who answered — wrote in that they did not want the station built in their community.

The line has already been approved by council. Funding has already been secured from the feds and the province, but skyrocketing inflation has put pressure on the project, and the City has had to cut corners on the plan. Included in those cost-saving measures is the scrapping of the plan to elevate the Heritage Valley North station. By putting it at street level, it means a further LRT extension south to the airport — whenever that comes — may have to cross Ellerslie Road at grade. And that’s generated a lot of negative feedback from the south. To reopen discussion about what to do about the Ellerslie Road issue, that was slam dunk for council.

Even though 24 Twin Brooks residents voiced their opposition at City Hall two weeks ago, and the survey came back with a majority of negative responses, deferring Twin Brooks station was never in the cards.

“I think we have to have those stations in place,” said Coun. Andrew Knack. “We are building a system for the next 100 years. So, having a stop in this location will allow us to accomplish more of our City Plan objectives. It will provide transportation alternatives for those that want it.”

“Yes, we heard from 24 people in favour of having it removed,” said Coun. Jo-Anne Wright. “But I think I’ve gotten emails from just as many people that are in favour of having the station there.”

“I think a deferral is essentially a cancellation,” said Coun. Erin Rutherford. “Because there are so many priorities related to LRT, to come back around is more costly.”

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was blunt. “It makes no sense,” he said.

Rice admitted she was “frustrated” during the debate. And she openly questioned administration’s honesty when they claimed that there was no promise made to Twin Brooks residents about a concrete wall.

But the majority of council believed no promises were made.

“It’s unfortunate that some of the residents thought that the City had committed to the concrete,” said Wright.

“Renderings are not a promise,” said Rutherford.

Knack said if a concrete wall was built for Twin Brooks residents, the same would need to be done for all neighbourhoods that are bordering onto LRT extensions.

“To me it’s all of them or none of them.”