University of Alberta Vice-President (Operations and Facilities) Don Hickey was appointed last week to the City of Edmonton’s LRT governance board to help oversee the city’s planned LRT expansion.
The transit committee, which has five other members besides Hickey, will report to city council on management decisions surrounding the expansion. Current plans will see a new 27 kilometre line run east and west of the current LRT system from Mill Woods all the way to Lewis Farms — at a $1.8 billion price tag.
Hickey has been previously involved with design and project management aspects for the University LRT station, and has 40 years of experience in his field — which also includes risk management.
According to Hickey, the U of A and the City of Edmonton have worked to develop a closer relationship over the past decade, augmented by an umbrella Memorandum of Understanding signed to encourage joint initiatives — such as the new LRT line.
“The LRT is an important part to our students as well for the U-Pass, because ultimately this will link up two other quadrants of the city from the LRT to our campus,” Hickey said.
Board members have yet to undergo an orientation session before meetings begin to take place, but Hickey said once this happens, the board will meet on a quarterly-annual basis.
He added the purpose of this orientation will be to get the board more familiarized with the scope and strategy of the project.
However, the future direction of the LRT expansion is uncertain, since the City of Edmonton made a recent decision to try to secure federal funding to help cover the monumental cost of the line. Councillors also made a controversial in-camera decision to seek out public-private partnership — meaning a private company will maintain and operate the new LRT line instead of the Edmonton Transit Service (ETS).
“The normal process … is quite a bit different when you build a public-private partnership, because you’re looking for an entity to take on most of the risk involved with the project,” Hickey said.
“Not just the design risk, but the construction risk, financing risk, operational risk in the future, because it will be a 25 or 30-year services agreement.”
Hickey noted another challenge associated with the project is that the expansion will be a large capital project which requires a huge level of collaboration.
“There’s the issues around community consultation — the impact when you build something from one end of the city to the other that’s going to be for the most part on the surface … there will be impacts of traffic flows, impacts to existing businesses, things like that,” he said.
“For the most part, it would be the team coming to the board and saying, ‘Here’s the issues, here’s what we’ve addressed, here’s the decision we’re recommending.’ ”
Hickey said he’s looking forward to the challenge he’s been offered and working with senior city administration alongside the other board members to make the project a reality.
“It’s a small board, so it’s a board that can make decisions, and one would hope we can reach consensus on issues. I think because it’s a major capital project that’s an interest to me, I think because the city has an interest to me as well,” said Hickey.
“So that’s really what I’m most excited about: the fact that you will be part of something that’s real, and something that’s going to happen.”
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