Construction well underway on Edmonton’s northwest LRT expansion

While the much-beleaguered Valley Line has taken a lion’s share of attention around Edmonton’s LRT of late, crews have been quietly working on another extension — to the city’s northwest.

This one will incorporate Edmonton’s sustainable community also under construction at the old site of the municipal airport — Blatchford.

The 1.6-kilometre addition to the Metro Line is coming in at a cost of $290 million. Construction on extending the line from NAIT to Blatchford started in summer 2020.

“It looks like an LRT now,” said Bruce Ferguson, the City of Edmonton’s branch manager of LRT expansion.

“Fundamentally most of the infrastructure is there, the track is there, the stations are well underway. They’re actually just installing solar PV (photo-voltaic) panels on the stations this week.”

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Edmonton’s Metro Line LRT is expanding into Blatchford and the stations have solar panels on them to power them. Courtesy: City of Edmonton

The Metro Line northwest expansion is set to happen in three phases.

  • Phase 1 – NAIT to Blatchford (Under Construction)
  • Phase 2 – Blatchford to Castle Downs (funded for land acquisition)
  • Phase 3 – Castle Downs to Campbell Road

While eventually the Metro Line is will run to Campbell Road near St. Albert, the Phase 1 extension will add two stops: another one at NAIT and a second stop inside Blatchford.

“One is going to serve the NAIT campus the day it opens and the one further north will serve all of Blatchford, but it will also serve some of the communities east of that,” Ferguson said.

Neighbourhoods like Prince Rupert and Westwood will be linked to the LRT with shared-use paths, running alongside the tracks.

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Click to play video: 'Blatchford community grand opening'

Blatchford community grand opening

When Phase 1 of the extension opens in 2024, the city anticipates 1,400 new riders will come on board — despite the fact that Blatchford itself is still being developed and only has a few dozen homes.

But dozens of pre-existing communities in all corners of Edmonton have been begging for LRT access for years — so why build to one that is still under construction?

The Metro Line LRT Blatchford Station in Edmonton, Alta. in April 2023. Global News

Councillor Anne Stevenson said there was grant money available from Ottawa that covers 80 per cent of the station’s costs.

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“The Metro Line had the best opportunity, was sort of furthest along – most shovel ready – to take advantage of that granting opportunity,” Stevenson said.

Read more: Edmonton councillor concerned about pace, affordability of Blatchford development

But, just because the extension will be complete, it doesn’t mean the trains will be gliding into the stations right away.

The Edmonton Transit Service Metro Line LRT NAIT Station in Edmonton, Alta. in April 2023. Global News

Council actually voted down funding the operational costs of the expansion as part of the fall budget deliberations.

“Because as much sense as it made to build those physical assets when the grant funding was there, it likely doesn’t make sense to be fully operating them while that portion of Blatchford is still building out,” Stevenson explained.

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Stevenson said council is expected to hear from ETS in the fall about different operational ideas, but the Blatchford Gate station may not open for the first year or two, or may only run with partial service during peak hours until more people call the community home.

The Blatchford neighbourhood in Edmonton, Alta. in April 2023. Global News

Having convenient public transit in the neighbourhood might just speed that process up.

“I think that having the LRT infrastructure there will be a huge attractor for lots of residents and builders,” Stevenson said.

Once complete, the Metro Line northwest corridor will extend the existing line from NAIT, through Blatchford, then north to 113A street where it will connect to key activity centres including Griesbach.

The city said the line will continue north along 113A Street to the proposed Castle Downs Transit Centre at 153 Avenue, and then west where it will end at the Nakî Transit Centre & Park and Ride at Campbell Road. It will feature nine transit centres.

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The Metro Line extension will be mainly at street level, although it will have to either go above or below ground at busier intersections and the CN Walker Rail Yard that’s directly across Yellowhead Trail from Blatchford.

The city estimates that by 2027, the Metro Line will have nearly 43,000 passengers get on board each day.

In 2021, the city replaced the Metro Line’s signalling system


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