The construction of Edmonton’s Valley Line West LRT is underway and workers are completing much of the “early works” of the project—from widening streets to building retaining walls.
These are necessary to establish the foundation for what is the city’s largest infrastructure project. Marigold Infrastructure Partners (MIP) is the City’s partner, selected to design and build Valley Line West. The 14-km LRT line will run from downtown to west-end communities and facilities, including Misericordia Hospital, West Edmonton Mall and Lewis Farms.
“This will increase transportation options for a growing city and expand Edmonton’s public transit footprint for generations to come,” says Po Sun, the City of Edmonton’s Valley Line West Technical Manager.
The “early works” includes four phases:
• earth works
• road preparation
• utility relocations
• foundation works for the future elevated guideway along 87 Avenue where the Misericordia Hospital and West Edmonton Mall LRT stations will be located
Phase 1: Earth works
To make way for the Valley Line West LRT, some streets need to be widened and some footpaths and additional landscaping need to be completed.
“LRT construction is likely the most disruptive construction project there is,” says Sun. “It takes place right on the road, where Edmontonians drive, bike and walk every day. ”
Before anything is done, soil needs to be excavated and levelled. In 2022, 138,531 cubic metres of clay and other soils were moved at three locations: Lewis Farms, the Gerry Wright Operations and Maintenance Facility, and the 170 Street intersection. That’s the volume of six West Edmonton Mall wave pools.
First Nations and Métis communities were invited to monitor earth works at the future Lewis Farms Stop, which was formerly part of the Enoch Cree First Nation reserve lands. A total of 13 Indigenous Nations and communities took part. The program included 27 visits of the worksites and a smudging ceremony during the groundbreaking event on May 27, 2022.
The City has benefited greatly from the knowledge and perspectives shared by First Nations and Métis communities about their historical and cultural connections to the locations of the LRT projects within city boundaries.
Very early on, Indigenous engagement with First Nations and Métis communities was a priority for the City. This engagement included sharing information, responding to any questions related to the project and working together to arrange site visits and ceremonies.
At the Lewis Farms site, work was done with communities to create harvesting opportunities—primarily medicinal plants and herbs—prior to the start of construction.
Eight nations and communities held ceremonies from August to December 2020. Indigenous site monitors also performed a ceremony on September 30, 2022— the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation—which the City was able to participate in.
Phase 2: Road preparation
The Valley Line West LRT is a low-floor system that will integrate into the neighbourhoods it serves. To do so requires streets to be adjusted and some sidewalks and trees to be removed.
So far, a total of 4700 metres square of roads have been reworked.
Edmontonians might have noticed some shifts in traffic patterns and lane reductions along 87 Avenue, Stony Plain Road and Meadowlark Road. This allows MIP to do their work safely and efficiently, while keeping traffic flowing.
In some areas, you will notice trees are coming down as roots can be impacted by construction, (or vice versa, roots can impact the LRT’s infrastructure or operation), but in other areas, there will be new trees planted. In places where there are sidewalk detours, pedestrian wayfinding signage has been updated to include a QR code to direct people to the construction updates website.
Here’s a backgrounder on preserved and protected trees on the Valley Line West LRT route.
Here’s a backgrounder on soil cells, how they help grow happier and healthier trees and lead to happier and healthier Edmontonians.
Phase 3: Utility relocations
To clear the way for the future Valley Line West LRT route, specialised construction crews relocated several hundred utility “conflicts.”
Underground utilities, electricity vaults, water mains, and power, sewer and telecommunications lines need to be relocated in order for the LRT tracks to be laid. If these utility lines and mains are not moved, it could lead to future maintenance and repairs being very disruptive to commuters who use the LRT and their own vehicles.
In 2022, sewer and waterline relocations took place along 87 Avenue between 161 Street and 182 Street, as well as the sewer line on 156 Street and Meadowlark Road from the middle of the road to the west side of the road.
Phase 4: Foundation work for the elevated guideway
Two Olympic-sized pools worth of concrete have been poured into piles for the elevated guideway along 87 Avenue. (That’s 5,000 metres square of concrete for those keeping track.) More than 952 metres of piling has been drilled for the elevated guideway—about three times the height of the Eiffel Tower! Piles are used as columns to support the elevated guideway within the two stations.
The future elevated guideway for Valley Line West will span 2.3 kilometres from 182 Street to 163 Street, connecting the new stations at West Edmonton Mall and Misericordia Hospital. To support the 12-metres-high structure, a total of 70 piles have been drilled and filled with concrete. In 2022, MIP began constructing the guideway by drilling the foundations at 174 Street and working eastward toward 165 Street.
The foundations are now in place and piers to support the elevated guideway are ready for the superstructure to rest upon. The segments of bridge girders will be prefabricated in Red Deer, Alberta and installed one by one. During the installation of the bridge deck, the station construction will begin.
Lewis Farms retaining walls
The Lewis Farms Transit Centre boasts two new retaining walls on the south side of the site. The land here is naturally sloped and the walls will support the new LRT maintenance facility, which is being built at a higher grade than a nearby shared-use path and stormwater pond. The design of the retaining walls uses a stamped brick pattern specifically designed to prevent climbing and is coated to ensure graffiti can be easily removed.
The shared-use path will run between the two walls which will wrap around the south and west sides of Lewis Farms, leading out to Webber Greens Drive and Potters Green through a forested section of pathway. The first wall is 5 metres at its highest point and 94 metres long, towering over the second wall which sits at 2 metres tall and 20 metres long.
Navigating through construction
With all the road detours for drivers, it can be a bit overwhelming out there. To help you better navigate, we have a map with all the current traffic disruptions in Edmonton.
If you’re a business owner, MIP put together a tool kit to help you mitigate the impact of Valley Line West LRT construction. Check out MIP’s 2023 Look Ahead Video.
If you’re curious to know when and where construction is, please visit MIP’s website.
The City of Edmonton and MIP aim to minimize disruptions as much as possible. LRT construction is an investment in Edmonton’s future and will change how we move and grow into a city of two million people in the coming decades.
If you have any feedback on how we can help you navigate through construction, reach out to LRTprojects@edmonton.ca or to MIP at firstname.lastname@example.org.