Mayor Don Iveson heads to Ottawa Monday evening with two main things on his mind. He’s hoping the feds will have answers regarding transportation and housing files.
“We have a rough sense about the amount of money (available) but understanding how and when that will flow to municipalities, what opportunities we might have to stack it with other grant programs and just essentially what hoops we’ll have to jump through to activate that money, (needs to be answered),” Iveson told reporters at City Hall.
Major transportation projects like Edmonton’s LRT or the needs for similar projects in other Canadian cities are hanging in the balance after the Trudeau government first signaled last year that significant spending would happen in Amarjeet Sohi’s infrastructure ministry.
“I think a lot of cities are ready to go with significant projects that will create jobs sooner rather than later as soon as we can get the funding flowing, so certainty around transit phase two is one of the big things we’re looking forward to,” Iveson said.
Iveson will be in meetings in his role as lead on the Big City Mayors’ caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities which has been meeting in Ottawa for the past week in the lead up to the federal budget that will be tabled Wednesday.
He’ll be watching for what rules and policies are put in place for housing.
“The scale of investment that we’re looking for is in that realm of $12.6 billion over eight years,” he said. “We want to see if we’re close or not. “If we’re way under invested there then that’s going to be a problem for vulnerable people in our cities. But hopefully we’re hearing encouraging noises so we’d like to see some specifics there and a big dollar commitment.”
What is said in Ottawa will go a long way in developing a time line for the west leg of the Valley LRT to Lewis Estates. Iveson said he’d like to get initial work going if long term money and policies are announced in the coming weeks.
“I’d like to be able to move into procurement this year, and maybe close that in time to have work start in the next construction season on things like utility-relocate but that could take into 2018 depending how much design work needs to happen,” he said. “We’re doing preliminary design now that helps us better understand some of those utility implications.”
READ MORE: Mayor Iveson wants LRT funding certainty
Iveson’s goal continues to be for cities to contribute 10 per cent of the construction costs of LRT, with the other orders of government sharing the other 90 per cent. Cities pay 100 per cent of the operating costs once a project is built.
“At the scale that the federal government is pushing out money there’s no way municipalities can match the federal government’s outlay at the same pace,” Iveson said. “It would be a dramatic increase over what we’re spending annually on transit that would have really difficult impacts on property tax payers.”
Edmonton has set as the next two items on its priority list for LRT expansion the Valley Line from downtown to the west end, and an expansion of the Metro Line into Blatchford. The first phase of the Valley Line to Mill Woods has a price tag of $1.8 billion and the second phase is expected to have a similar cost.