EDMONTON -- The future of Edmonton’s LRT expansion is up for debate next week with a new report suggesting the city should prioritize the Capital Line South to Ellerslie over the Metro Line North to Castle Downs.

The report, authored by city administrators, points out how both the Capital Line and Metro Line extensions are at the same point in terms of their design, but the Capital Line could start sooner. 

“The Capital Line extension will be built on land that is already owned by the City or is to be acquired from the Government of Alberta,” the report reads. 

“In order to advance the Metro Line extension beyond Blatchford, further work is still underway with CN on an agreement for the crossing of Walker Yard. There are also over 35 full and partial property acquisitions required along the North Metro line.”

“Of course I’m very disappointed,” said Ward 2 councillor Bev Esslinger. “I was thinking the next line to go would be the line into Castle Downs because it’s the last quadrant of the city to have LRT before we started expanding the current lines.”

Esslinger added that it’s her understanding that one of the reasons the city is suggesting to go south next is because of the new South Edmonton hospital and because it would cost less. 

Transit Users in Castle Downs were equally disappointed with the idea to not bring LRT to their neighbourhood next. Jon Chrimes said he has been petitioning the city since the eighties about improving transit in Edmonton’s Northwest. 

“I think it’s time we have something on this end,” he said, pointing out that a lot of the other LRT extensions happened elsewhere. 

“I’ve lived in this community for 30 years and anytime there’s talk of expanding the LRT, it’s always fanciful talk to come up north but they never do. It’s always directed to either the west end or the south side,” Chrimes said. 

Ward 10 councillor Michael Walters said traffic congestion data should inform the order of LRT construction. 

“I’ve been pretty committed, not just as a representative of South Edmonton, but as someone who cares about making evidence-based decisions that South has faster growth, has greater traffic congestion, and has greater need at this point in time,” Walters said. 

“While the whole of Edmonton would be well-served by mass transportation, you can’t do it all at once and it makes sense to go South next.” 

The reports’ authors said it’s expected As a result, construction could begin on Capital Line as early as 2021, while construction on Metro Line, if funded today, could not likely begin until 2023/2024.

The report will be debated on Monday.