On January 20, service began to Edmonton’s new NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT Station, marking the much anticipated completion of Phase 1 of the Metro Line Northwest Extension.

Edmonton’s urban planning and transportation infrastructure has taken centre-stage in Canada. At the heart of its transit system is the Metro Line, a vital artery into the downtown core. The recent expansion of the Metro Line represents not just an extension of tracks, but a strategic move towards fostering sustainable growth, enhancing accessibility, and redefining the urban landscape.

Phase 1 construction started in 2020, and the project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule in December 2023, says Eva Cheung, General Supervisor of the LRT Expansion & Renewal Branch with the City of Edmonton. The extension adds 1.6 kilometres of track, along with the new NAIT/Blatchford Market and Blatchford Gate LRT stations. The NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT Station replaces the temporary NAIT station built in 2015.

As one of the key components of Edmonton’s evolving LRT network, the Metro Line extension exemplifies a forward-thinking approach to urban planning and transportation infrastructure. In 2009, the LRT Network Plan laid out a blueprint for the systematic expansion of the city’s LRT network. This plan, spearheaded by transit experts and City officials, envisioned a comprehensive network of LRT lines spanning Edmonton, catering to the diverse needs of its residents. The expansion of the Metro Line Northwest marks a significant milestone in the city’s transportation network, aligning with broader urban development strategies aimed at fostering sustainable growth and enhanced connectivity.

The Metro Line Extension

The recent extension of the Metro Line is a tangible manifestation of Edmonton’s commitment to transit-oriented development (TOD). Covering approximately 11 kilometres, the full future extension (Phase 1, 2, 3) aims to serve burgeoning communities while minimizing environmental impact and maximizing connectivity. Phase 1 of the project, inaugurated in January, encompasses a 1.6-kilometre stretch, with plans for further expansion to come.

Phase 1 construction was originally anticipated to be complete in 2025, but was completed in December 2023. “Completing Phase 1 of the Metro Line Northwest LRT extension ahead of schedule is a significant infrastructure milestone to serve our growing needs,” said Mayor Amarjeet Sohi in a news release from the City of Edmonton. “This extension further strengthens our LRT network and provides the north side of Edmonton with greater access to transit service.”

The larger NAIT/Blatchford Market LRT Station will benefit students of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), future residents of the sustainable Blatchford neighbourhood and bring this LRT network one step closer to connecting communities for Edmontonians. Phase 1 of the extension is emblematic of the provincial and federal government’s commitment to supporting transit in the province.

Community Impact

The Metro Line extension holds transformative potential for the communities it serves. By linking residential areas, educational institutions, and commercial hubs, the extension facilitates seamless movement within the city. Students at NAIT, in particular, have embraced the new station, underscoring its significance as a gateway to education and opportunity.

At the heart of Edmonton’s transit expansion strategy is the concept of transit-oriented development (TOD). By concentrating development around transit hubs, Edmonton aims to create vibrant, walkable communities where residents can live, work, and play without relying heavily on cars. The Metro Line extension serves as a catalyst for TOD, catalyzing investment, spurring economic growth, and promoting sustainability.

In addition to expanding transit options, the Metro Line extension prioritizes active transportation infrastructure. A dedicated 1.6-kilometre cycle track, coupled with over three kilometres of shared walkways, encourages residents to embrace cycling and walking as viable modes of transportation. These investments not only reduce congestion but also promote healthier, more active lifestyles.

“We are growing the city by working with citizens and gathering feedback through extensive public engagement during the design development phase,” says Cheung. “We are helping to build the city and really setting the stage for the future development that’s happening. We’re extending into an area that’s still developing. The City has invested into developing Blatchford into a sustainable community and welcoming 30,000 new residents to this area in the future.”

A part of the project is a 1.6-kilometer cycle track which is dedicated for cycling directly along the LRT, and another additional three kilometers of shared-used half ways or walkways which connect the cycle track to the surrounding bike network and developing new walkways and trails, connecting people and over time along the core.

“It’s about getting people where they want to go and having the most choice,” says Cheung.

Edmonton’s commitment to environmental sustainability is evident in the design and implementation of the Metro Line extension. Solar panels installed on station canopies harness renewable energy, powering two-thirds of the station’s energy needs. By integrating green technologies and practices, Edmonton demonstrates its resolve to combat climate change and minimize its carbon footprint.

The successful realization of the Metro Line extension owes much to the collaboration between public and private stakeholders. Consulting firms such as Stantec Consulting, Phicon, Platinum Engineering, WSP, GEC Architecture, SMA Consulting as well as the City’s contractor, PCL, have played pivotal roles in planning, designing, and executing the project. This partnership underscores the importance of collective action in addressing complex urban challenges.

Looking Ahead

As Edmonton continues to evolve and grow, investments in transit infrastructure will remain paramount. The expansion of Edmonton’s Metro Line to the northwest heralds a new chapter in the city’s transit evolution. More than just a means of getting from point A to point B, the Metro Line is the tool that will help to create Edmonton’s vision for a greener, more accessible, and more connected city.

For more information, please visit www.edmonton.ca