City council to consider borrowing to cover major projects

City Council holds an emergency budget meeting at City Hall, a day after the province unveiled $7 million in cuts to the city’s funding, in Edmonton Friday Oct. 25, 2019. Photo by David Bloom David_Bloom David Bloom / David Bloom/Postmedia

City council is considering borrowing amounts totalling around $200 million to cover everything from LRT improvements and upgrading Terwillegar Drive to bringing in an organic waste program.

The largest chunk to be discussed at the Jan. 20 city council meeting is $102.7 million for the Terwillegar Drive expressway upgrade. The project has had a few bumps along the way, including losing some provincial funding last year.

Terwillegar Drive would have received funding through the Alberta Community Transit (ACT) program, a sum of about $24.6 million, to cover the dedicated bus lanes and the purchase of some electrical buses. Instead, the program was cut.

Upgrading Terwillegar has been spread out over three phases spanning nearly a decade. Funding for Stages 1 and 2 was approved by city council in 2018. The third stage is to focus on the Anthony Henday interchange.

The next largest borrowing sum under consideration by city council is $51.4 million for a source-separated organics program. This is part of a larger, 25-year plan the city has for waste disposal. The rollout will start with green bins for separating organics this summer. However, there’s still no composting facility.

And another $28.3 million in borrowing is being considered for the Stadium LRT station upgrade, which would cover the lion’s share of the total cost of the project, now pegged at $31.6 million. Originally opened in 1978, the Stadium station requires major upgrades to its aging infrastructure while improving public safety.

Other projects being considered include $6 million for a new transit bus garage, $5.8 million for improvements to the Century Park LRT station, and increasing the amount needed for the Blatchford District Energy Sharing System (DESS) program by $4.9 million, to $24.4 million.

Before anything moves forward, city council has to approve first reading at the Jan. 20 meeting.

The projects can’t come back for second and third reading before Feb. 18, except for the DESS program, which already received first reading back in December.

As of Dec. 31, 2018, Edmonton has used 54.4 per cent of its debt limit and 29.1 per cent of its debt servicing limit.