The Alberta government will provide $1.53 billion in funding over eight years to help Calgary build the new Green Line LRT, Premier Rachel Notley announced Thursday. 

The financial pledge is the single largest infrastructure investment in the history of Alberta, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said as he joined Notley, Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason and other officials for the announcement at a downtown C-Train station Thursday morning. 

"What an amazing day," he said.

"This incredible piece of infrastructure is going to serve the entire city."

Thursday's announcement of provincial funding for the 46-kilometre north-to-southeast line is the last piece of the financial puzzle for the multi-billion project.

"We are investing in the things that make life better for people," Notley said. "It's a priority that our government is very, very proud to support."

Council has already aside $1.5 billion for the $4.6-billion project, and it approved the final alignment and station locations last month.

The federal government has committed a similar amount.

Coun. Shane Keating pointed out it was the largest infrastructure funding announcement in the province's history.

"You can use words like fantastic, amazing, all of these, but it's difficult to really put into words exactly what's happened here because we're setting a number of records," he said.

"This is the largest infrastructure [project] in Calgary's history, it's one of the largest infrastructure projects in Alberta's history, but the fact we did it in less than seven years. We've gone from zero dollars to actually having the project funded and ready to start building, that's what's really amazing."

The money is tied to the new provincial carbon levy, which Wildrose leader Brian Jean and Progressive Conservative leader Jason Kenney have both vowed to eliminate should they take office in the next election, scheduled for 2019.

Despite that Keating said he isn't worried the funding could be at risk.

"I don't believe there has ever been a new government coming in that hasn't honoured previous commitments," he said.

"Will they change the carbon levy? That's to be seen, but the fact they're going to stop the Green Line in the middle of the project? It's not even remotely a worry in my case."

Green Line LRT phase 1

City officials have unveiled the first phase of construction for the Green Line LRT. (City of Calgary)

In May, the city voted to build the Green Line in stages rather than construct the entire line — from from Stoney Trail in the north to the South Health Campus in Seton in the deep southeast — all at once.

The first stage will go from 16th Avenue North, under the Bow River, through the downtown core and Beltline, and then southeastward to Shepard at 126th Avenue S.E.

The province says the project will create 12,000 direct jobs and more than 8,000 supporting jobs, such as engineering, planning and administration.

When Stage 1 of the Green Line is running by 2026, it will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30,000 tonnes of C02 annually, by getting about 6,000 vehicles off the road, Notley said.

The provincial funding will come from the Climate Leadership Plan, including the carbon levy.

Nenshi said the Green Line will go a long way to reducing congestion on the other LRT lines as well as major arterial routes such as Deerfoot Trail.

"This is transformative, it's transformative for our city," he said.

Nenshi noted that earlier planning for LRT expansion outlined in the city's Route Ahead document envisioned the Green Line as a much longer-term project.

In 2013, the city approved a plan to start building the Green Line as a dedicated bus rapid-transit project that could be converted into an LRT route many years later.

'Wasn't good enough for the community'

"But it wasn't good enough for the community," Nenshi said.

"Today, the announcement we're making is allowing us to build the Green Line LRT 30 years in advance of schedule."

Nenshi said the province's plan to dole out its share of the Green Line's price tag over eight years will help improve the economics of the whole project.

"The eight years is a great win for all of us, because the eight years of funding roughly matches the construction timeline, which means that the debt servicing costs on the provincial government's portion will be very, very small," he said.

Glancing over his shoulder at Mason, Nenshi quipped that the phased funding model could even make it cost-effective for the province to keep paying to build additional Green Line stations once Stage 1 is complete.

"Not that I would presuppose anything," he said. 

The current plan is for construction to start in 2019 or 2020 with full build-out of the first phase to be ready for the trains to roll in 2026.

The city has said that should Calgary choose to bid for the 2026 winter Olympics and be named host city, the Green Line's initial phase could be ready in time for the Olympics.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the province believes the project will create 2,000 direct jobs. In fact, officials said it will create 12,000 jobs.
    Jul 06, 2017 12:10 PM MT