TransEd selected for the Valley Line LRT, interVivos turns 9, changes at Startup Edmonton

I’m trying something new, where I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. I’ll organize them here. Have feedback? Let me know!

TransEd Partners selected as Valley Line LRT partner

Today the City of Edmonton announced that TransEd Partners has been selected “to design, build, operate, maintain and finance stage one of the Valley Line LRT.” TransEd is a consortium comprised of: Fengate Capital Management, Bechtel, Ellis-Don, and Bombardier. Additionally, TransDev, ARUP, and IBI Group are described as “other key team members.” TransEd was selected after an 18 month procurement process “that saw comprehensive proposals from three international teams.”

Acting City Manager Linda Cochrane said the City, the LRT Governance Board, and the fairness monitor were all “quite comfortable” with the bids that were received, but felt the TransEd bid offered the best value for taxpayers. She repeated what Mayor Iveson and other City officials have highlighted in recent months, which is that the P3 model “by its nature transfers risk” to the partner. It’s pretty clear everyone is nervous because of what happened with the Metro Line and Thales. I have no doubt the issues that were encountered with the Metro Line will not be repeated with the Valley Line. But the reality of a $1.8 billion project, the single largest infrastructure project in Edmonton, is that something else will go wrong. What’s important is how the City will handle it.

And that’s the other key thing that Linda talked about today – communication. She noted that the City is still responsible for the project and is the entity to complain to if and when things go wrong. And she acknowledged that the City has room to improve when it comes to communication. But they are committed to being “as transparent as possible” throughout the entire project.

The next step is to finalize the contract with TransEd, which will involve a deeper dive into all of the financials. That is slated to be complete by February 2016 and if all goes well, construction will begin in the spring. The new 13-km line from Mill Woods to Downtown would be complete in 2020, with service starting by the end of that year.

interVivos turns 9

Last night I had the pleasure of serving as emcee for interVivos’ latest mentorship networking event. It’s the second time I have hosted the event, so I was thrilled to be asked back!

“The mentorship program helps achieve the mandate of interVivos by “bringing together young professionals and students with Edmonton’s business, political and community leaders to develop the relationships and the skills required by young people to assume positions of positive leadership within our community”.”

The mentorship program began in 2012 and has been running twice a year ever since. I’ve had the opportunity to be a mentor in the past as well, and I had a very positive experience. The way it works is interVivos brings together sixteen proteges and sixteen mentors, and they meet in a speed networking format. Proteges get four minutes to meet each mentor, and then at the end of the evening they all rank their top five preferred matches. interVivos makes the matches within a few weeks, and then each protege and mentor pairing is responsible for communicating at least three times over six months. You get out of it what you put into it, but the relationships that are formed can be quite meaningful.

interVivos Fall Mentorship Networking
Rene Ziorio & Zohreh Saher

interVivos launched back in November 2006 making it nine years old this month, which is quite an achievement! Zohreh and the team should be very proud of what they’ve built. In case you were wondering, interVivos is a Latin word that means “from one person to another”. You can follow interVivos on Facebook and on Twitter.

Changes at Startup Edmonton

The secret is out now: Ken Bautista resigned last month from Startup Edmonton and EEDC. He wrote:

“After eighteen months since our acquisition, I came to realize that it was the right time to leave Startup Edmonton in a place where it could continue to be a platform to grow our community beyond my leadership.”

There’s still a great team at Startup Edmonton, including co-founder Cam Linke and COO Tiffany Linke-Boyko, but Ken’s resignation is a big loss for EEDC. The energy, creativity, and vision he brought to the organization will surely be missed.

Frankly this news leaves me wondering about EEDC’s ongoing culture change. Ken is not the kind of person you want to lose, and if he was frustrated by bureaucracy or other internal impediments then that’s concerning. I’m sure we’ll learn more about how things are going at EEDC during the budget process over the next couple weeks (and potentially at the IMPACT Luncheon in January).

As for Ken, I have no doubt he’ll be positively impacting Edmonton with his next project (whatever that might be) in no time.

Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT moves forward with commitment from the Province

It was the announcement Edmonton was hoping for last Thursday when the Province unveiled its Budget 2014: money for southeast LRT extension to Mill Woods.

Valley Line LRT Funding Announcement

Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT is moving forward after the Province today made a commitment to provide up to $600 million to help finance the project. In a prepared statement, Premier Alison Redford said:

“Alberta is preparing to welcome a million new residents over the next decade, many of whom will be choosing communities like Edmonton as their home. Our Building Alberta Plan is helping municipalities build public transit systems to accommodate growth and make it easier for Albertans of all ages and levels of mobility to get where they need to go.”

In stark contrast to his disappointment last Thursday, Mayor Don Iveson was understandably pleased with today’s result, calling it “a momentous occasion”:

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Today’s announcement was a bit over-the-top in my opinion, with Premier Redford, cabinet ministers, and MLAs arriving at Churchill Station via LRT. I think Mayor Iveson picked up on the pomp as well, joking that he hoped the ministers enjoyed their trip on the LRT.

Valley Line LRT Funding Announcement

It was a good opportunity for Edmontonians to show support for LRT expansion however, with students from City Hall School holding up #yeg4lrt signs at the top of the escalator. There was a sizable crowd gathered and lots and lots of media on hand to capture the event. If you’d like to watch the announcement, you can see the raw footage here.

What the Province has committed to is:

  • up to $250 million under GreenTRIP over three years beginning in 2016-17 upon approval under the second call for GreenTRIP projects,
  • up to $150 million in matching provincial funding if the federal government approves this project under the new Building Canada Fund beginning in 2016-17, and
  • up to $200 million in an interest-free loan to be repaid by the city over 10 years, fully backed by the Alberta Capital Finance Authority (ACFA).

As Mayor Iveson noted today, only $400 million of that is new money. The interest-free $200 million loan is simply a creative way to bridge the gap.

Valley Line LRT Funding Announcement

It is unusual though not unprecedented for the Province to offer interest-free loans to municipalities through the Alberta Capital Finance Authority (ACFA). For instance, a program known as “ME first!” launched in September 2003 and provided interest-free loans to encourage municipalities to achieve energy savings in their operations. It is common for the City to receive loans from ACFA for infrastructure projects, with typical interest rates ranging from 1.6% to 3.3%. Some projects that the City has previously borrowed for include the Whitemud Drive/Quesnell Bridge rehabilitation, the Walter Bridge replacement, and the NAIT LRT line. Any loans would be subject to the Municipal Government Act, which outlines debt limits and other restrictions. Edmonton is well within both the provincial debt limit and its own more strict limits.

Technically the money won’t start flowing until 2016, which perhaps not coincidentally happens to be the pre-election budget. It certainly did feel like a politically motivated announcement today. The Province received immense pressure from Edmontonians after last week’s budget and Mayor Iveson and his colleagues on Council did a good job of harnessing that to their advantage (the mayor even played along with the #SadDonIveson meme).

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As Dave noted today:

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Still, the assurance from the Province means that the City can keep the project moving forward, and that’s a win for Edmonton. We won’t lose a construction season, and the federal funding will likely be received without issue. Mayor Iveson confirmed:

“Knowing that we have a clear pathway to apply for those dollars allows City Council to consider moving ahead to the next step of this journey.”

The mayor thanked Council, our regional neighbours, and the ministers at the Province for working hard to get the deal done.

Valley Line LRT Funding Announcement

I know many people have been working on this for a long time, but I think Mayor Iveson deserves a lot of credit for making this happen. He expressed disappointment and frustration last week, but did not alienate the cabinet ministers he needed to work with to move things forward. He kept the lines of communication open, and clearly said the right things.

Today’s news, while positive for the Valley Line LRT, is not the long-term commitment that the mayor has been seeking, but it is another step in the right direction.

Valley Line LRT

Here’s a look at what the Valley Line LRT will look like from Mill Woods to 102 Avenue downtown (subject to change):

The City’s website has already been updated with details related to the funding:

“Thanks in part to timely commitments by our provincial and federal partners, the Valley Line will remain on schedule for a construction start of 2016, aiming to be open to the public by the end of 2020.”

The next step is a Request for Proposals to shortlist qualified consortia (groups of affiliated companies) that bid on the project. That stage is expected to take three months.

Keep up-to-date on the Valley Line LRT here or sign up for email updates.