Save the Footbridge are a group of engaged citizens who formed around the Southeast LRT line and its social and environmental impacts.

Specifically, the group is opposed to the selected route and in particular the dismantling and reconstruction of the river valley footbridge linking Downtown and Cloverdale.

The issues these folks raise are worthy of serious consideration. Edmonton’s river valley and river are jewels; the footbridge is not only a commuter route for pedestrians and cyclists, but a gorgeous civic landmark.

The group also raised concerns about how the new dual purpose bridge – pedestrian and LRT – will harm natural areas, mar fish habitat and disrupt wildlife corridors.

I met with the group twice at City Hall and chatted with one of its champions during the fall election campaign. I also met twice with city officials and raised the group’s major concerns at a public meeting of City Council.

Then I weighed the information and chatted with my council colleagues.

Finally, I came to a conclusion: That I will not be raising this issue further with city council.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the selection of the southeast LRT alignment was and is legitimate; and that the public interest is best served with this route.

To abandon the alignment now would be to abandon as much as $100 million in preliminary work; not to mention, potentially delay SouthEast (Valley Line) LRT further. It would also throw salt into the wounds of citizens and communities who engaged in years of public consultation on the route.

In reaching this conclusion, I did not ignore Save the Footbridge’s concerns. Instead, I came to the conclusion that the concerns are not unique to this alignment.

Incorporating an LRT system into a planned urban environment of neighbourhoods, commercial areas and parks will always cause disruption. Going from Point A, Downtown, to Point B, Millwoods, necessitates crossing the river. No possible route was without environmental impact.

But this route topped the city’s criteria of creating an LRT system that will best serve the most people and pave the way for a future Edmonton that is prosperous and far less reliant on passenger vehicles.

Save the Footbridge and its members are critical of the public engagement process related to southeast LRT. I’m sympathetic, but also believe the city was well intentioned during the process.

Must we improve the process? No doubt. But any process of public engagement on processes like this must acknowledge that some citizens or community might be left disgruntled.

Simply put, it is impossible to develop – to change the urban environment – without causing some upset.

Is this not, then, why we elect City Council to make the best decision possible for the city as a whole?

Finally, I want to thank Save the Footbridge. I realize that might sound patronizing. But they were always thoughtful and civil in engaging their City Councillor. Having been newly elected, I learned much from them and am grateful for their input.

NOTE: A public meeting is being scheduled for Riverdale in the New Year where citizens, civic administration and myself will talk about ensuring the construction process is as painless as possible.

By Scott McKeen, City Councillor Ward 6