Edmonton councillor fumes at COVID-19 Valley Line LRT delay

The delayed launch of the Valley Line LRT from downtown to Mill Woods is likely going to be pushed back even later than the summer of 2021, according to Councillor Mike Nickel.

That’s based on word that came from Bombardier on Tuesday that it is stopping all non-essential work in the country, while 9,000 workers are heading home in Quebec and Ontario.

“I asked literally a month and a half ago, what administration’s response was going to be, what their plan was, with regard to procurement risks during COVID-19,” Nickel said Friday in a phone interview with Global News.

“At that time they hadn’t considered it, which was pretty frustrating.”

“Let’s take for example the Valley Line south. It’s already a year and a half behind. Now that we’re probably not going to get our cars on time, how long is that going to put the whole project behind again?”

In an e-mailed statement to Global News, the city said it has been informed by Bombardier that the Kingston, Ont. plant remains open where the Valley Line southeast car production is being done.

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“Work is taking place at a reduced rate in order to ensure appropriate COVID-19 precautions with workers. There will be capacity and supply chain impacts to train production, but it’s too early to say what those will be,” the statement said.

“Whether it be our staff, our industry partners or citizens, being safe and staying healthy are at the top of our minds,” the statement continued. “We will continue to monitor the situation and will take our direction from the public health authorities at all work locations.”

The project most recently was pushed back late last year, beyond its December 2020 due date by another six months into 2021. Nickel suspects this will push it back even further.

“Is that project at risk? Certainly the schedule they have was suspect to begin with. I’d like to know, and a lot of my constituents would like to know when this line is actually going to get finished?”

“I believe it’s (summer) of ’21. But I have no faith in that. The (timeline) has been extended several times now over the last five years. I’ve raised flags on this over and over again unfortunately, to no effect.”

Nickel charged that city administration has not planned for the new reality in the coming years.

“It worries me. It actually worries me quite a bit,” he said.

“While I see a lot of people reacting in the moment (to COVID-19) as a businessman, I worry about the short-, medium- and long-term consequences of any crisis, or any problem and I just don’t see that medium- to long-term thinking that needs to be dealt with today.

“We have to make decisions today to minimize the damage tomorrow. That’s the problem. You fall into a crisis, you can get into tunnel vision and this is all you can see. You have to understand there will be a tomorrow so you have start working towards it.”

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