Calgary

Calgary council expected 3 Green Line options today — but that's not what it got

City council's Green Line committee was expecting to see three proposals Tuesday for getting the multibillion-dollar LRT line through downtown Calgary, but that didn't happen. 

Final recommendation on downtown alignment due in March

An artist's rendering of a new Green Line station, which could be altered significantly amidst ongoing debates on the future of the project. (City of Calgary)

City council's Green Line committee was expecting to see three proposals Tuesday for getting the multibillion-dollar LRT line through downtown Calgary, but that didn't happen. 

Instead, administration gave councillors an update on some of the work it's doing in an attempt to get options on the table. 

Come January, council will have a closed-door workshop session where they'll discuss options, with a final recommendation on the downtown alignment in March. 

"We've been working with the technical team to come up with options and we've been out talking to stakeholders and what we're realizing is that we need some more time to talk to stakeholders and also to run over the details with council," said Michael Thompson, the head of the of the Green Line team.

Options for the line

The latest delay follows months of back and forth after the original plan for the four-kilometre stretch through downtown — including a tunnel under the Bow River and downtown — proved too costly.

Options floated at city hall have included cutting the project in two, so the north and south lines don't connect in downtown. 

Thompson said on Tuesday that his team has examined several scenarios and determined the line should, indeed, go into downtown and connect all the way though. 

He noted a loss of ridership if the lines don't connect in the core.

Going through the core, he said, presents significant challenges, including the Beltline alignment and the costs of getting under the CP tracks. 

"So how do we actually get into the core and get people to where they want to be, but do it responsibly and make sure that we're making the right investment decisions," said Thompson.

Frustration level is high

The team has, however, determined it could shorten the length of the tunnel through downtown by half, build shallower stations in the core and use a bridge to get over the river in order to save money.

Coun. Shane Keating, who chairs the Green Line committee, said he's disappointed in the delay but understands why the team needs more time. 

"I have to admit that the frustration level is extremely high. We saw that last meeting," he said. 

"This meeting, we actually realized that maybe there is a better way to do it. Set aside the frustration or the emotional aspects of the decisions, focus on the decision, focus on the right decision and allow for information to flow in a manner which all council members can feel comfortable about."

Budget questions

The debates at city hall aren't the only issues facing the massive rail project. 

In the recent provincial budget, the United Conservative government slashed its funding commitment to the Green Line from $550 million to $75 million over the next four years.

Thompson, however, said the province has promised that after the four-year period, the city will receive $291 million each year for the following five years to meet the senior government's original commitment of $1.53 billion.

As for when shovels could be in the ground on the project? With all the variables at play, that's in 2021, according to Thompson. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

With files from Scott Dippel

now