A station for the westward expansion of the Valley Line LRT at 124 Street has some concerned but others cautioning to remain engaged and find solutions.
When City Council approved the LRT Valley Line expansion westward, from 102 Street to Lewis Farms Transit station, many residents and business owners along the route in the core expressed concerns, mostly with the 124 Street station.
The layout seemed to cut into space for cyclists and people on their feet.
“It’ll be more convenient,” said Wesley Tang, a 21-year-old downtown resident, “but I want to make sure that it’s safe for pedestrians as well.”
The proposed location and design of the station also seemed to mark a date with a wrecking ball for 13 homes and more than 20 businesses, including Western Cycle and the United Way.
Some business owners were not impressed. “I feel a little bitter about the whole thing,” said Wade Church, manager of National Audio Video on 124 Street, in an interview with the Edmonton Journal.
But others in the business community say it’s best to remain calm as the LRT discussion continues.
Jeff McLaren, executive director of the 124 Street Business Association, said he recognizes the challenges with the proposed station but ultimately feels that it will be a net positive. He also suggests to wait until all decisions are finalized before reacting.
“We support (the Valley Line). We see it as a great benefit to the area. We’re hoping it will alleviate some of the reliance on a vehicle, as well as relieve some congestion and the parking issues in the area,” McLaren said. “My first meeting [with the city on the LRT expansion] goes back to 2010. We’ve voiced our concerns and they’ve come back with whether they can address them or not. There’s no sense in getting all up in arms over something until we know exactly what’s happening.”
Coun. Scott McKeen, who oversees Ward 6 with downtown and Oliver within it, said he has been a strong supporter of protecting as many businesses and homes as possible, especially Western Cycle.
“I’ve met with Mr. Pahall, the owner of Western Cycle, and we’ve talked about a couple of options, whether he could find a temporary space during construction, and then reopen in an altered building, or a rebuilt building,” McKeen said.
As for the concerns surrounding bicycle paths and pedestrian crossings, McKeen said council’s priority was to make transit more convenient, not more difficult.
“Ideally, we want people walking and biking and taking transit,” McKeen said. “That is a clear priority for this council. But when you’re putting an industrial scale project through a community, there will be impact, and you try to lessen it as much as you can.”
McKeen also recommended following McLaren’s wait and see approach, and encouraged the community to remain engaged as the development continues.
“We are building an LRT for the next 100 years,” he said. “But we are only able to look at it from this time period. When we see it going through these areas, we only see the negative impacts and we can’t see, as the decades unfold, the revitalization that by all accounts will occur.”
PHOTO BY IAN SCOTT