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Long-awaited Valley Line Southeast LRT officially opens to passengers

The Valley Line Southeast LRT officially opened to passengers early this morning.

Before dawn, the first train is expected to take off at 5:15 a.m. from the stops at Mill Woods and 102nd Street, downtown.

City officials, excited residents, and transit authorities will gather to witness the inaugural ride. 

Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador says she’ll be on the first train boarding at the 102nd Street stop downtown to be a part of the “historic moment.”

“Being able to have that direct connectivity into the heart of our city is so incredibly important. We want Edmontonians to be able to move around their city quickly, efficiently, safely in ways that work for them,” Salvador said to CBC News.

The long-delayed 13-kilometre, low-floor line will connect passengers to the downtown from the southeast Edmonton neighbourhoods of Mill Woods in 30 minutes. 

The long wait

The $1.8-billion project, a public-private partnership with Trans-Ed, was supposed to be operational in December 2020. Almost three years and many tests later, it is finally open to members of the public. 

It is expected to serve up to 30,000 riders per day.

Mill Woods residents Joan and Len Huculak bought their home in the neighbourhood in 1974, enticed after hearing talk about a potential train line from their realtor. 

An elderly man and women sit on a chair
Long-time Mill Woods residents Joan and Len Huculak live a short walking distance from Grey Nuns station. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Almost 50 years later, the couple said they plan to catch a train from Grey Nuns station today and check out the downtown library which they haven’t seen since its revitalization in 2020. 

“To go downtown would be a treat,” Joan Huculak said. 

“To go for supper and then just go for a walk about and then come back or something just for a change.”

Mobility issues and the lack of parking are other reasons the couple are excited to see the train line open, said Len.

“Rather than taking a car and driving down there, take the LRT and make it an excursion,” Len Huculak said. “I’m looking forward to that convenience.”

The Valley Line Southeast features 11 stations, including stops at major hubs such as Davies Station, Holyrood Station, and the Muttart Conservatory Station.

On Saturday and in the short term, trains are going to run about every 10 minutes between the start of service until 9:30 p.m., in both directions, Monday to Saturday.

Jayci Shkopich, 32, says she will be using the new LRT to commute to her classes at MacEwan University every week. Not only will it save her from the long drive and icy roads in the winters but it’ll save her about $200 in monthly parking fees.

“Until the end of spring semester, I’m going to be saving like $800 or $1000 which is insane because I already get free transit because I’m in school,” Shkopich said. 

A digital sign with train stops
The Valley Line Southeast will run 13 kilometres from Downtown to Mill Woods, passing 11 street-level stops. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

While the LRT is designed to have trains run every five minutes during peak periods on weekdays, the city is giving itself “breathing room” before providing service at full capacity at the advice of other jurisdictions, says Bruce Ferguson, branch manager for LRT expansion and renewal for the city.

“So if something does pop up, then you’ve got time to work on it,” Ferguson said Thursday. 

The city does not have a time frame of when the frequency will pick up, but it could in the next month or two, said Ferguson.

In the meantime, the 73A and 73B Mill Woods buses, which run parallel to the Valley Line, are going to run until February 2024.

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