Twin Brooks LRT: “Public Trust is a Very Big Challenge Right Now”

Residents supported the Capital Line extension in 2018; now, they're being asked about it again
City of Edmonton Photo
Rendering of planned Twin Brooks LRT station at 9th Avenue NW and 111 Street NW.

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In 2018, City of Edmonton administration surveyed residents about the plan to extend the Capital Line LRT to Twin Brooks, the first phase in a plan to extend the line south to the Edmonton International Airport.

At the time, both city-wide and in Twin Brooks, the results were positive. Nearly 70 per cent of people who responded to the survey were in favour of the extension, and that included a 65 per cent majority of people who identified as Twin Brooks residents.

But, a lot has changed since then. Signalling issues plagued the Metro Line. The Valley Line South extension has been repeatedly delayed, including cracks in supporting piers which scuttled the planned 2022 opening. In recent public consultations in Twin Brooks, Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi Councillor Jennifer Rice heard from residents who don’t want the extension built through their neighbourhood.

The question: Do these voices represent a loud minority, or do they represent how the community feels as a whole? It is a big reason why the City has issued a new survey on the Twin Brooks LRT station, and residents have until January 23 to fill it out.

“Everything has changed,” said Rice. “The new survey provides opportunities to our ward residents who may not have had the opportunity to get their voices out during the first survey.

“Public trust is a very big challenge right now, specifically for the LRT. I received constituents’ comments that, if we have the LRT, two other lines, Metro and Valley, both have problems. Why don’t we fix those problems first before we start something new?”

Rice attended two public consultations in her ward last year. A meeting in September, 2022, in Twin Brooks drew more than 400 residents.

“There were really mixed views,” she said. “Some people, of course, support the LRT and want to see the station there. But the people who spoke the loudest are the ones who don’t… The [meetings] sent a message. And I sense from the public that they didn’t get enough opportunity to voice their opinions. That’s the case — I was told that 2018 is an old survey, why can’t we get a new survey?”

Because Twin Brooks has nearly 7,000 residents, Rice said it’s not fair to simply use a group of angry residents at a meeting of 400-plus people as the final measuring stick of community support for the LRT.

The Capital Line extension plan was approved by Council more than a decade ago, and the first phase of funding — from federal, provincial and municipal sources — came in 2021. The federal government has committed $400 million to the project.

Rice said there are several concerns she had about the LRT project. Twin Brooks residents were concerned that they could have their access cut off by the train. Many of the residents live connected to a loop that is made up of 9th Avenue and 12th Avenue NW. Both offer access from 111th Street to the neighbourhood, and they connect to form a circle. But Rice said she has been assured by engineers that a train will not be long enough to block both intersections. And, trains will be held if emergency vehicles need to access the neighbourhood.

Still, there are concerns about construction, slated to begin in 2024, and the effects it will have on the community. Traffic is now a daily quagmire for west-end residents affected by lane reductions and the dismantling of the Stony Plain Road Bridge, as work on the West Valley Line LRT extension has begun in earnest. The City has promised that residents affected by the south Capital line extension can become members of or bring their concerns to a Community Advisory Committee that will be formed.

But Rice said the City needs to better coordinate construction projects so the effects on residents and businesses are mitigated. Last spring, she voted for a motion that would have seen business owners be eligible for compensation if they were negatively impacted by infrastructure projects. That debate was stirred after several Alberta Avenue businesses went public that they would have to close after an EPCOR project cut off their access to 118th Avenue. That motion was defeated by a 7-6 count.

But, if Twin Brooks residents reverse their 2018 vote, and now oppose the LRT, will Rice follow suit? The first-term councillor has positioned herself as a voice of the people; during the budget process in late 2022, she said she would not support any tax hike of greater than 3.9 per cent. When the draft budget raised taxes to five per cent each year over the next four years, she voted against it.

“I really don’t know what will come out of that survey,” said Rice. “Generally speaking, my decision principle is to stand up for the wants of the majority of Edmontonians. I know it’s a very tough decision. This LRT, the funding, the decisions have already been made by previous councils.”

(Ed. Note: This note came from the City via Twitter: “The goal of the survey is to provide information and gather feedback about the approved Twin Brooks station in hopes of mitigating potential concerns raised by citizens — not whether a specific community wants or doesn’t want the LRT extension.”)