I was perhaps the only Edmontonian on the fence as to whether to close City Centre Airport now, but the phased closure compromise allows the city to set itself up as the developer and hold a design competition — important conditions of my support.
In two further votes at the same meeting, LRT funding was redirected from Gorman to NAIT with the support of the mayor and 10 councillors. I’d like to discuss how the airport lands and LRT set the stage for incredible transit oriented development, but I feel I need to bring some transparency to an ongoing NAIT LRT drama.
In the continuation of a lengthy grudge, northeast Coun. Tony Caterina — a key airport supporter — was the lone councillor against the LRT motions. In late June, Caterina was also the lone vote against funding detailed design, for reasons that require some history.
In mid-January, a seemingly innocuous sentence in an LRT update triggered a heated debate.
With NAIT and St. Albert on opposite sides of the airport, the transportation department suggested that LRT planning should “incorporate city council’s decision on the future status of the City Centre Airport.”
To argue otherwise is absurd, yet that was what I found myself watching to the chagrin of an increasingly frustrated transportation manager, Bob Boutilier.
Caterina’s subsequent motion was thankfully defeated, but it seems he knows how to hold a grudge. In late January, for example, he voted against appointing the NAIT LRT engineering consultant, and in February he cast the sole dissenting votes against two measures to begin property expropriation — even after the amount of expropriation had been slashed in half.
At the same time, he argued against LRT to NAIT because students are “not getting on public transit and carrying their welders with them.” NAIT’s Student Association rightfully rebuked Caterina. After all, I was there in 2008 when NAITSA representatives told him their concerns about overcrowding on Route 8 (essentially the LRT precursor to downtown).
Caterina’s not the most pro-transit councillor — my recordings from 2008 also have him suggesting that “we should be increasing fares” and “my 16-year-olds ... don’t want that bus pass, they want that car” — but this increasing pettiness is getting out of hand. I’ve had my own reservations about LRT to NAIT, Tony, but it’s a done deal. For the good of the city let it go already.