30 concrete piers now need repairs on Valley Line LRT extension in southeast Edmonton: TransEd

More concrete piers under the elevated tracks of the Valley Line LRT’s southeast Edmonton extension need repairs than initially expected, according to the contractor working on the project.

In a video update posted to YouTube on Friday, TransEd CEO Ronald Joncas said 30 of the piers now require repairs, up from the 21 mentioned in his last update.

“I acknowledge how disappointed everyone is with the project delay and I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can to repair the piers safely and as quickly as possible,” he said in the video.

The LRT extension project, which connects Mill Woods to downtown Edmonton, is a public-private partnership. It is a 13-kilometre line. In August, TransEd announced the line would not be operational in the summer after cracks were found in 18 piers that supported the tracks,

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In a social media post on Friday, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi described the ongoing delays to the LRT line’s extension as “unacceptable.”

“Today’s announcement from TransEd has left so many Edmontonians, including myself, frustrated, disappointed and tired of waiting for a project that should have been in service two years ago,” he tweeted. “It is TransEd’s responsibility to address (the delays).

“I must stress that because this project is operating on a fixed-price contract, all of the costs of the delays are borne by TransEd.”

Joncas said as with his last update in September, Edmontonians continue to be able to safely walk and drive under the southeast LRT line’s elevated tracks even as repair work commences.

READ MORE: More cracks discovered in concrete piers along Valley Line LRT southeast extension

He said a root-cause analysis of the issues has now been completed and a plan for repairs has been developed. He said three different types of repairs will be needed as each pier “is affected by forces in a different way” because of their varying heights.

Joncas said the initial investigation in August determind “affected piers experienced horizontal forces caused by thermal expansion of the elevated track this summer.”

“However, after a detailed, thorough analysis, we have confirmed that those thermal expansion forces from the concrete and steel LRT tracks were not greater than anticipated in our design,” he said.

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“Instead, the analysis confirmed the design of the internal steel reinforcement within the piers was inadequate, resulting in cracks in the piers.”

While some of the piers will see “minor amounts of rebar being drilled and anchored in the existing concrete,” others will have a new “concrete diaphragm” added.

“(The diaphragm is) basically a partial infill in the ‘v’ of the pier between the two arms,” Joncas explained. “This diaphragm will provide further structural support.”

Other piers will see an external support be placed where the piers’ arms meet the piers’ legs. Joncas said that support will be made up of steel beams connected by steel rods.

Joncas said TransEd is talking to engineers as well as city officials about how to mitigate the amount the LRT line’s look will be impacted by the repairs. He said repair materials are already arriving and crews have been prepping sites for the actual repair work to begin.

Joncas said he will provide details about new timelines and what the repairs may look like in a future update. He added that tracks between Mill Woods and downtown continue to undergo testing so Edmontonians should not be surprised to see trains on the tracks.

The southeast LRT line was originally expected to be ready for transit users in December 2020 before being delayed to the end of 2021. In October 2021, the opening was delayed again to the first quarter of 2022.

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Then in December 2021, another delay was announced, this time to the summer of 2022. At the time, an exact opening date was not provided.

On June 22, the contractor again said it was still on track to open the line this summer, but an exact date was not released. It is not clear when the line will now be operational.

READ MORE: Cracks found in 18 piers delay Valley Line LRT southeast extension yet again

“After first learning of the issues with the piers in August, I asked city manager Andre Corbould to undertake a comprehensive review of large infrastructure projects, including the P3 procurement model,” Sohi tweeted Friday. “While taxpayers are protected in this case, I want to ensure we avoid technical or procedural problems from happening on future projects, and this work is underway.

“Work is also underway to review the specific problems encountered by TransEd, which have caused tremendous impacts to the residents and transit users of this city.

“The fact that we are not getting what we expected on time is frustrating, but at this time, our No. 1 priority is to ensure that the defects are fixed properly and that when the line opens, it is safe for all users.”

–With files from Caley Gibson, Global News

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