$61M trench, bridge added to west LRT line
Lower than expected construction costs for the new leg of Calgary's west LRT route has convinced city council to add a trench at a busy southwest intersection, appeasing many area residents.
Council voted 12-3 on Monday to spend $61 million on digging a trench for the line at 17th Avenue and 45th Street S.W. and building a short bridge for traffic over the tracks.
Bids for the $700-million project have come in lower than anticipated, Mayor Dave Bronconnier said Monday morning, opening the door for the change.
Many people worried that C-Trains running at ground level would snarl traffic or block emergency crews exiting police and fire stations near the intersection.
"I know they've said it's a minimal impact but when emergency services are involved, seconds save lives," said Peter Rishaug of the Best West LRT citizens' group.
"It's protecting pedestrians, cyclists and cars when you separate the train from where everyone else moves during the course of a day. It also gives residents much better access ... and that saves everybody money in terms of efficiency. It also basically will provide much more increased access for the emergency services at that location."
"If you don't have a trench, then the traffic will stop here. As it is, it's a really, really busy intersection," said Wendy Harinck, president of the Westgate Community Association.
Strong community campaign
The trench/bridge scenario is cheaper than digging a tunnel, an $85-million proposal originally supported by some aldermen and residents. Money for the trench will come out of a transportation reserve fund.
Residents in the area have been lobbying for the change by distributing flyers and continuing to pressure city council with emails. More than 1,000 people signed a petition in support of the trench.
"The aldermen have received I would say 450-500 emails each. We've had about 100 phone calls. So the community has been mobilized and they've done a fantastic job in making sure that council hears them," said Ald. Joe Connelly.
Connelly and fellow alderman John Mar took up the campaign on behalf of constituents, calling it a safety issue.
The route ratified by council in June will have the C-Train chug up the middle of Bow Trail at street level, head underground as it swings south onto 17th Avenue at 33rd Street and then rumble back to ground level at 41st Street.
Construction of the eight-kilometre line, which ends at 69th Street, is slated to start next spring and finish in late 2012. It is the city's first LRT line in 20 years, since the northwest line was built to the University of Calgary in 1987.