Prov­ince con­verts $176M Val­ley Line LRT loan from 2014 into a cap­i­tal grant

Edmonton Journal - - CITY - CLAIRE THEOBALD twit­ter.com/ClaireTheobald ctheobald@postmedia.com

The prov­ince’s move to for­give a $176-mil­lion loan for con­struc­tion on the first phase of the south­east Val­ley Line LRT will help cor­rect an “over-con­tri­bu­tion” of mu­nic­i­pal funds pledged for the pro­ject while al­low­ing the city more flex­i­bil­ity in the LRT’s de­sign down the line, Mayor Don Ive­son says.

“This pro­ject went ahead ... on the ba­sis of what I thought at the time was an over-con­tri­bu­tion from mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, but it was a way of get­ting the pro­ject started, se­cur­ing com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and tak­ing ad­van­tage of fed­eral fund­ing that was avail­able at the time,” Ive­son told a news con­fer­ence Fri­day at a con­struc­tion site near 75 Street and White­mud Drive.

“We took some risk to go ahead with this pro­ject,” Ive­son said, “and to­day, this pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment is as­sist­ing us with mov­ing for­ward and restor­ing a fund­ing balance on this pro­ject which I think is more eq­ui­table and more ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Brian Ma­son, NDP MLA for Edmonton-High­lands-Nor­wood, an­nounced the prov­ince would be con­vert­ing a $176-mil­lion in­ter­est-free loan taken by the City of Edmonton to pay for part of the pro­ject in 2014 to a cap­i­tal grant, ef­fec­tively eras­ing that debt.

This brings the prov­ince’s to­tal con­tri­bu­tion to the pro­ject to $600 mil­lion.

“We’re do­ing it be­cause I think it’s the right thing to do, and we’re do­ing it be­cause we are able to thanks to our Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Plan,” Ma­son said. “The $176 mil­lion for the Val­ley Line grant is a di­rect re­sult of this plan and the car­bon levy.”

Ma­son said he un­der­stands mu­nic­i­pal bud­gets are lim­ited to what prop­erty tax­pay­ers can af­ford, with Ive­son cred­it­ing this cap­i­tal grant with, “less­en­ing the bur­den on prop­erty tax­pay­ers to build this trans­for­ma­tive in­fra­struc­ture.”

A more ap­pro­pri­ate source of fund­ing for th­ese projects, Ma­son said, is the prov­ince’s car­bon levy.

“It would be very dif­fi­cult for the prov­ince in the cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion we find our­selves in, with lower royalty rev­enues and re­duced taxes, to fund th­ese projects with­out the car­bon levy,” Ma­son said. “It is a sta­ble, on­go­ing source of fund­ing that is de­signed pre­cisely for this kind of pro­ject.”

Ive­son said the $176 mil­lion that would have had to be re­paid to the prov­ince can now be rolled into the sec­ond phase of the Val­ley Line LRT pro­ject, al­low­ing the city more flex­i­bil­ity to “build it right.”

For ex­am­ple, it could be used to el­e­vate LRT lines over heavy vol­ume in­ter­sec­tions along the west ex­ten­sion, specif­i­cally at 178 Street and 87 Av­enue or 149 Street and Stony Plain Road.

CLAIRE THEOBALD

Mayor Don Ive­son said Fri­day that, by for­giv­ing a $176-mil­lion loan for LRT, the prov­ince has made the fund­ing balance for the pro­ject more eq­ui­table.

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