'Beat up, smelly' underpass getting $3.5M overhaul

Work is getting underway to spruce up the busiest pedestrian underpass in downtown Calgary.

Busy walkway between downtown and the Beltline needs sprucing up, city says

Upgrades to the underpass will include better lighting to make pedestrians feel safer. (City of Calgary)

Work is getting underway to spruce up the busiest pedestrian underpass in downtown Calgary.

The underpass at First Street S.W. between Ninth Avenue and 10th Avenue — beside the Fairmont Palliser Hotel — links downtown and the Beltline and is one of Calgary's two oldest surviving railroad bridges.

The underpass between Ninth and 10th avenues is getting a multi-million dollar facelift. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The dark, foul-smelling and noisy underpass isn't deemed by the City of Calgary to be an ideal place for pedestrians. So with some corporate donations, the city is going to spend almost $3.5 million to improve the passage, which is used by about 9,500 people per day.

"It's not a comfortable place to move. If you see people coming in and out of here, especially at dark, they scurry through and it doesn't smell great," said Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley.

"It's really beat up and it's not really well taken care of or maintained and that's got to change."

City planning official Dawn Thome said brightening up the 1907 underpass will make it less intimidating for pedestrians.

"What we're really hoping to do is create an environment that is a little bit fun but at the same time, really helps people feel a little bit more comfortable going through," she said.

(City of Calgary)

The project includes adding LED lights to increase lighting, painting steel girders and repairing or possibly lowering sidewalks to create a more comfortable environment so people feel safer using the underpass.

"We really hope that people are going to walk through and every time they go through, they're going to see something a little bit different," said Thome. 

​The project will not change the roadway, but at times there might be road or sidewalk closures during the renovation. 

Work is expected to be complete by summer.