Slow down on high-speed rail: AUMA

Don’t derail other much-needed transportation projects to pursue a high-speed train link.

Don’t derail other much-needed transportation projects to pursue a high-speed train link.

That was the message the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) gave a government standing committee that is looking at the potential for a high-speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary.

Lacombe mayor and AUMA vice-president Steve Christie said Alberta communities, especially the large centres, want to ensure their transportation systems remain funded and future cash is not siphoned off to support high-speed rail.

Edmonton and Calgary both need light rail transit links to their airports.

“It’s proven efficient and beneficial in cities around the world, and it should work here as well,” said Christie, who addressed the standing committee on Tuesday afternoon in Edmonton.

Building the airport links doesn’t mean high-speed rail has to be shelved.

The groundwork, such as land acquisition and feasibility studies, could be done while other transportation gaps are filled.

The AUMA says that filling regional transportation needs will require substantial financial support from the federal and provincial governments.

What the organization wants to see is a comprehensive multi-modal “hub and spoke” transportation system across the province that connects communities to the big cities and the high-speed rail terminals.

The City of Red Deer was among municipalities to address the committee.

Land and Economic Development manager John Sennema said they reinforced the city’s strategic central location and its strong economic potential, backed up by a population expected to double by 2041.

Red Deer is expected to be a stop on a high-speed rail line.

Sennema said they made the case that the city could be well positioned for the rail line’s head office or for marshalling yards.

Planning documents already contemplate the possibility of high-speed rail passing through and the unencumbered land is available.

“Essentially what we were trying to tell the committee is we’re ready and we’re open for business when it comes to high-speed rail,” he said.

The city also encouraged the province to get started on planning and mapping out a potential route.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com