The 13-kilometer (approximately 8-mile) Valley Line Southeast light-rail transit (LRT) project that runs from downtown Edmonton to Mill Woods has hit another delay. Ronald Joncas, CEO of TransEd Partners, the consortium building the line, told a press conference Aug. 10 that he had hoped to celebrate the opening of the line in September, but instead announced a delay with no definitive timeline for a solution in place.
The cause of the delay is the discovery of cracks in about 40 percent of the project’s concrete piers that support the elevated guideways. The cracks were discovered in mid-July by city crews who were inspecting the project; TransEd was notified and then inspected all piers, finding cracks in 18 of 45 piers.
“On behalf of TransEd, I want to say how disappointed we all are, and we deeply regret the inconvenience this unfortunate and regretful delay may bring to Edmontonians and others in the region,” said Joncas. “But please be assured that we are doing all that we can to find the most efficient solution to deliver a safe and reliable LRT line at the earliest possible time.”
In a separate press conference, Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi and City Manager Andre Corbould expressed their disappointment in the news and all parties – city and contractor – noted the cost overruns associated with the delay would be shouldered by TransEd, not taxpayers.
“We buy a product, we don’t design it, we don’t engineer it and we don’t build it ourselves, specialists do that,” said Corbould. “TransEd is fully responsible for the costs of repairing the piers, and it continues to forfeit payments every month the system is not operational."
Next steps will be for TransEd to complete a root cause analysis then design and implement a solution. Joncas could not speculate on timing of when this would happen, but at the afternoon city press conference, Edmonton Deputy City Manager Adam Laughlin said a plan from TransEd to repair the piers could be two weeks to a month away. The city says information on repairs would be shared as it becomes available.
Joncas said the lead indicator of the damage appears to be lateral terminal load. He explained TransEd was looking at strengthening the piers rather than replacing them but noted “there will be no sacrifice on safety, quality [or] on the pier lifespan as they are being strengthened.”
Mayor Sohi called the news “frustrating and deeply disappointing.”
The mayor said the city’s lack of oversight on public-private partnerships needed to be acknowledged and called on the city to undertake a review of how it builds large projects to improve transparency and accountability. The review will begin immediately.
“TransEd has not delivered this project as expected; they are responsible for this delay and they will be held accountable to get the work completed and open the line that is safe to ride,” said Mayor Sohi.
“We expect TransEd to make this right and have the line open for safe reliable service as soon as possible,” added Corbould.