Taking Shape: Valley Line Southeast update 8

The $1.8-billion Valley Line Southeast continues to take shape, with approximately 96 per cent of construction complete along the 13-km line. The Valley Line Southeast will be a significant addition to the City’s transit network and will connect Edmontonians in the southeast to the city’s downtown core and beyond.

The new line is delayed and is now expected to open in summer 2022.

“We know the impacts these delays have on people’s lives,” said Adam Laughlin, the City of Edmonton’s Deputy City Manager of Integrated Infrastructure Services. 

“We remain committed to working with TransEd to ensure the line opens for safe and reliable service, and that Edmontonians get the system they were promised.” There has been important work done on the line throughout 2021. Let’s explore along the LRT line to see how it has evolved and what crews from TransEd, the group of companies building the project, have been up to this year. We’ll note some important milestones while we’re at it.

102 Avenue

A bird’s-eye view of the 102 Street Stop seen from the pedway between City Centre Mall and Manulife Place.

At the 102 Street Stop, TransEd crews have installed flat-roof canopies as part of design integration into this contemporary and dense urban area. The paving stones you see in the photo above make the Valley Line’s downtown segment unique. These sidewalk paving stones allow for a variety of colours and patterns, and show designated areas for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.

Earlier in 2021, TransEd expanded energization of the overhead catenary wires—wires that supply power to the trains—from the Muttart Stop to the 102 Street Stop, allowing testing to move from the south side of the river to the north. Onlookers in downtown Edmonton saw the first train being tested in mid-October. Overhead wires are now energized along the entire line.

For all Edmonton Oilers fans, the 102 Street Stop is the closest Valley Line connection to Rogers Place.

Churchill Square

The Churchill Stop is near City Hall, Winspear Centre and Citadel Theatre—an art and culture lover’s paradise.

Continuing east toward Churchill Square, the Churchill Stop sits next to the newly renovated Stanley A. Milner Library. 

EPCOR installed traffic signal poles and davit arms along the line in May. You can see these installations in the photo above. The traffic signal lights hang from the davit arms (the bits sticking out horizontally from the poles).

The Churchill Connector will be your connection to explore Edmonton via the Valley Line, Capital Line and Metro Line. It’s where the lines intersect.

At the southeast corner of Churchill Square, the Churchill Connector is nearly complete. This building will allow passengers to easily connect to the underground pedway system where they can transfer to Capital Line or Metro Line trains via Churchill Station. Inside are stairs, an escalator and an elevator, making transit across the city accessible to all Edmontonians. Crews have installed windows, doors and tiles. If you look closely, you will see a grainy film on the upper windows. This is to protect birds that tend to fly into clear glass when they see the reflection of the sky.

In 2022, an inflated sculpture by Max Streicher, Helios, will be installed. The sculpture will be suspended from the ceiling and will feature images of horses racing across the sky.

The Quarters

The symbolic Chinese portal at the Quarters Stop will enchant passersby.

Along the eastern stretch of 102 Avenue, a new red and gold Chinese portal stands tall and proud near the Quarters Stop. TransEd crews have also planted trees and shrubs to revitalize the pocket park in front of the portal. 

Edmontonians provided input into the design of the portal during the preliminary design phase of the project in 2012 and 2013 as part of public engagement. This portal was installed in March 2021 and preserves a special piece of cultural heritage.

Community input shaped the project’s design guidelines emphasizing Sustainable Urban Integration (SUI). The design of the Valley Line Southeast aims to fully integrate LRT expansion with communities along the corridor. SUI means building shared-use pathways and new sidewalks, adding bike lanes that connect with the existing bike lane network and designing pedestrian-friendly areas around LRT stops.

The new sculpture at the Quarters Stop represents a dragon, which symbolizes prosperity and good luck in Chinese culture.

A five-metre long sculpture—Descendants of the Dragon by Paul Reimer—has been installed along the roof of the Quarters Stop canopy. The new piece depicts a dragon, using Chinese calligraphy by local community member Stephen Tsang.

Tawatinâ Bridge

The Tawatinâ Bridge has seen many milestones this year. Tawatinâ means “Valley” in Cree.

The Tawatinâ Bridge is one of the most recognizable features of the Valley Line Southeast. By the end of 2020, crews had installed overhead catenary system poles, guard rails, tracks and cables. TransEd recently completed the trail asphalt and wood plank surfacing for the eight-metre-wide shared-use path that runs underneath the rail line bridge deck. It will be a great path to cycle, walk, roll and ride over. The shared-use path is expected to open in mid-December.

The first test train crosses the new Tawatinâ Bridge, connecting both banks of the North Saskatchewan River.

On October 12, the Valley Line Southeast reached a significant milestone: a test train crossed the North Saskatchewan River on the new Tawatinâ Bridge. The bridge now officially connects the north and south banks of the river, which means testing can occur along the entire line.

The shared-use path on the Tawatinâ Bridge is expected to open to the public in mid-December.

The 400 panels of artwork by David Garneau have been installed on the ceiling of the shared-use path on the 260-metre Tawatinâ Bridge. Each painting is informed by First Nations and Métis knowledge.

Whoa, that’s steep.

Landscaping by the Tawatinâ Bridge starts at the top of the hill and moves down the slope of Louise McKinney Riverfront Park. The traction power substation on the hill provides the power that goes through the bridge and will eventually blend into its surroundings thanks to pretty trees.

The Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards parks are still in use as laydown yards for tunnel and bridge construction. Once these parks are re-established, park lovers will once again see pathways and a plaza. In 2021, crews installed thousands of “cells” along the slope (light brown in the photo) that were then filled with topsoil and hydroseeded. The seeds will begin to grow next spring. Crews will also plant shrubs and additional ground cover in the spring. A wood naturalization fence has been installed along the slope to limit public access and allow the seeds to grow. 

Did you know? TransEd crews harvested native seeds from the river valley a few years back. The seeds have been germinating and growing into small trees in nurseries across Alberta. They will soon be planted in the river valley. 

Muttart Stop

The Muttart Pyramids peakin’ (pun intended) their way into the photo.

After crossing the Tawatinâ Bridge heading southbound, we arrive at the Muttart Stop. This is the only LRT stop along the entire network located in the river valley. 

At the end of 2020, TransEd poured concrete for the stop platforms and installed structural steel for the canopies. They also installed glass walls and sliding doors for the shelters. All shelters along the line are heated during operating hours so you can stay warm and toasty. Crews are completing the construction of retaining walls and will sandblast a decorative pattern in the plaza that ties into the shared-use path near the stop.

While at the Muttart Stop, don’t forget to visit the newly renovated Muttart Conservatory and take a stroll through the outdoor garden on the Muttart grounds. Winter sport enthusiasts will also be pleased with the short walk to the Edmonton Ski Club.

Walk around the Muttart Stop to find exotic sculptures of various colours.

Artwork by Stephanie Jonsson has been installed on the canopies of the Muttart Stop. These organic sculptures were inspired by the exotic plants and flowers of the Muttart Conservatory.

Strathearn Stop

The bumpy yellow warning strips seen above help passengers—particularly individuals with visual impairments—know when they’re near the edge of the platform.

Last winter, TransEd crews pulled cables through underground conduits at the Strathearn Stop. There are approximately 700 km of cable along the southeast line. If you look closely, you’ll also see some shiny steel cabinets. These cabinets hold thousands of wires. In addition to the cables, there are many other electrical connectors for security cameras, emergency buttons, ticket vending machines, and the public announcement system.

Walk along 95 Avenue to see beautiful dioramas of landscapes and wildlife, captured by local artists and photographers.

The public art is extraordinary along the Valley Line Southeast. The art piece at the Strathearn Stop (photo above) is called Of birds and such by Public Studio.

Holyrood Stop

The boulevard landscaping is coming to life at the Holyrood Stop.

Next, we arrive at Holyrood Stop, which staggers across 93 Avenue on 85 Street. This mature neighbourhood is introducing higher-density redevelopment with the nearby Holyrood apartment site. 

We can see some landscaping now integrated into the stop. By the end of the project, crews will have planted approximately 10,000 trees and over 85,000 shrubs, with almost 22,000 square metres of grass along the entire line. The project’s trees are one part of the “Greener as We Grow” Big City Moves in the City Plan.

The Holyrood Stop flaunts a kaleidoscope twist on glass art.

Art aficionados, here is yet another public art piece to learn about—the Holyrood Lanterns project by Adad Hannah.

Bonnie Doon Stop

The Bonnie Doon Stop is a high-traffic location. Stay safe and follow the signs!

As we continue south, the line switches to the west side of 83 Street and stops near the Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre. TransEd crews have installed handrails for ramps and completed finishing work on the pedestrian crossings.

Students in the Bonnie Doon area got to share a few words in the shelter’s glass art.

Do you know the history of the Silver Heights Peony Garden in Bonnie Doon? Artist Oksana Movchan has captured the essence of the garden at the Bonnie Doon Stop. Short stories from young Rutherford Elementary School students also made their way into Movchan’s Four Seasons in Silver Heights Peony Garden art piece.

Avonmore Stop

The new pedestrian crossings keep us all safe.

Moving back to the centre of 83 Street, trains pull up to the Avonmore Stop which straddles 73 Avenue.

One of the key differences of the Valley Line (compared to the Capital Line and Metro Line) is the Valley Line does not have crossing arms, gates or bells. This is intentional. Valley Line is highly integrated into several residential communities and the trains will share the road with vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

The new pedestrian crossings have signals and are coloured for enhanced visibility. Make sure to always follow traffic and pedestrian signs and signals. Never take a shortcut across the tracks—the pedestrian crossings are there to keep you safe. When you see tracks, expect a train—it could be approaching from either direction. 

Davies Station

The elevated Davies Station receives a lot of natural light. Make sure to drive by at night to see the glass art lit up!

Davies Station includes a Park & Ride, with  approximately 1,300 parking stalls in the Wagner Industrial Area. Davies Station is the Valley Line’s only elevated station on the route. It’s designed to be both an LRT station and a future bus transit centre. The design for the station includes a small retail kiosk space that would be great for a coffee shop. Perhaps the newest date night spot in the city? Just sayin’, it’s got a great view of the skyline.

At the end of 2020, EPCOR installed underground cabling for updated traffic signal infrastructure. At the end of August, crews expanded train testing and energization of the overhead wires in the area. 

TransEd crews have completed work on adjacent sidewalks and guideways and have poured concrete for other infrastructure such as bus lanes. They have also filled planters with soil and planted trees and shrubs around the Park & Ride. Inside, crews are currently commissioning the elevator and escalators.

Colourful artwork spans 53 panes of glass at Davies Station.

The windows at Davies Station include the large-scale art piece Fluid Landscape by Shan Shan Sheng. During the day, passengers will enjoy an abundance of natural light inside. In the evening, the station lights will illuminate Sheng’s images of prairies, forests, lakes and mountains.

Millbourne/Woodvale Stop

The Millbourne/Woodvale Stop continues onto 66 Street. We’re almost at Mill Woods.

In early 2021, TransEd crews conducted train system testing along 66 Street to check the distance between the platforms and the train. System tests can be performed when a train is unpowered, using a mobile recovery vehicle (shown in the last photo of this blog) that can safely move the train along the tracks.

This is critically important for motorists and cyclists—particularly those heading north on 66 Street—to know: right turns are not allowed on red lights at certain intersections. All Edmontonians will need to pay close attention to traffic signs and signals. 

Grey Nuns Stop

Cultural textiles and patterns adorn the Grey Nuns Stop canopy.

TransEd crews are installing a public art piece by Karen Ho Fatt Lee at the Grey Nuns Stop. This Alberta artist was inspired by cultural textiles and patterns to design A Pattern Language.

The Grey Nuns Hospital will be the third Edmonton hospital accessible by LRT. The existing Capital Line has a stop at the University of Alberta Hospital (Health Sciences/Jubilee Station), and the Metro Line stops near the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Mill Woods Stop

The last stop on the Valley Line Southeast shows off its lights—ready for the winter season.

You might be asking, “How long does it take to get from downtown to Mill Woods on the Valley Line Southeast?” It will take approximately 30 minutes to travel between the Mill Woods Stop and the 102 Street Stop downtown. The trains mostly run at the speed of traffic. They will travel faster along the elevated portions where the trains are separated from traffic.

The Mill Woods Stop platform offers a park-like feel with natural and woody features.

The art glass at the last stop on the Valley Line Southeast is called If the Drumming Stops and will connect passengers to stories of the Papaschase Cree territory. It was designed by Peter Morin, Tania Willard and Cheryl L’Hirondelle.

What’s next?

A new train out and about for dynamic envelope testing. If you look closely, you can see the yellow mobile recovery vehicle in the background.

Construction along the Valley Line Southeast is almost complete. TransEd crews continue with testing and commissioning work along the line.

Dynamic envelope testing is the last check before a train can operate under its own power. Since trains can move slightly up and down and side to side while operating, this testing ensures that trains will be able to travel at operating speed along the line without contacting fixed objects adjacent to the tracks. That’s what the cardboard templates (they’re called dynamic envelopes) attached to the side of the train in the photo above do for testing teams. Testing and commissioning allow the project team to educate Valley Line train drivers while making sure everything is working as it should.

If you see a train out and about, don’t forget to snap a picture and tag it with the hashtag, #yeglrt. Let’s share the excitement!

Make sure to check back with Transforming Edmonton as we get closer to the finish line.