Calgary

Had it with Calgary road construction? Here's an update on major projects

A late start to the construction season, tight deadlines and a summer slowdown affected three of the city's biggest transportation projects.

Crowchild Trail bridge project reaches halfway point, new BRT launch date still unclear

Workers continue to work toward a mid-October completion for the BRT route along 17th Avenue S.E. It includes three new transit-only bridges over Deerfoot Trail, the Bow River and an irrigation canal. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Over the summer, Calgary's roads were a construction zone maze of blocked streets, torn-up asphalt, detours, new stop signs and frustrated commuters. If you were anywhere near 17th Avenue S.W, or 17th Ave. S.E, or the Crowchild Trail bridge over the Bow River, well, you know.

But such is life in an urban centre, especially one with the kind of growth and traffic that Calgary has.

The good news is the city says progress on these three flagship construction projects is going well. This is good for drivers. Still, when it comes to getting around town, there are some unanswered questions — in particular around new bus lines.

But let's start with a biggie: Crowchild.

Keep on truckin'

The $84-million Crowchild Trail bridge over the Bow project is on track and on budget with a planned completion one year from now.

While winter may be coming, crews are expected to hit the gas, not the brakes.

"We've been planning to do winter work all along, we'll keep on trucking here through this winter, things will ramp up here," said Jeff Baird, a senior transportation engineer with the city.

An extra northbound lane between Memorial and Fifth Avenue N.W. recently opened, while a new, reconfigured off-ramp from northbound Crowchild onto eastbound Memorial is expected to open within a few weeks.

Workers pave a new off-ramp from northbound Crowchild Trail onto eastbound Memorial Drive, which is expected to open in a few weeks. The construction project is currently on track and on budget, the city said. (Pat Fogg/CBC)

There have been a few setbacks on some of the smaller, related projects. Work being done on a popular section of the Bow River pathway along Parkdale Boulevard between the Crowchild Trail pedestrian underpass and 29th Street N.W. is behind schedule and is now expected to re-open sometime in November. The same delay applies to a section of pathway near the Pumphouse Theatre.

The overall Crowchild project has reached the halfway point so changing traffic patterns, zigzag lanes and reduced speed limits will be around for a while yet.

$304-million BRT lines

For those of us waiting for the new, possibly re-branded BRT lines, it's a different story.

But hang on, there's a bit of good news.

From a construction point of view, the complete overhaul of 17th Avenue S.E. from 26th Street S.E. to Hubalta Road is on track for a mid-October wrap — and yes, that includes those very impressive transit-only spans over Deerfoot Trail, the Bow River and the Western Irrigation District canal.

That stretch of 17th Avenue, or International Avenue, will get a fresh, new layer of asphalt featuring standard lane widths. There will be new, wider (three-metre) sidewalks and new intersections at 28th, 26th and 19th streets.

And, of course, there's all of the new infrastructure associated with the new BRT line, including enclosed, heated shelters.

A transportation engineer overseeing the 17th Avenue S.E. construction project says crews are in the homestretch and work should be completed by mid-October. Calgary Transit will not yet say when the new buses will roll. (Mike Symington/CBC)

If you've driven through there recently, you know there's still a lot of work to do, including paving asphalt and pouring concrete. But the transportation engineer in charge of the $181-million project seems pretty confident things will get done in the next three to four weeks.

"We're in the homestretch," said Colin Chapman.

The new southeast BRT will eventually zip down along the middle of the road — it's just that no one seems to know when service will start. Calgary Transit doesn't want to talk about specific dates.

References on the city's website about BRT service being ready by mid-October have been deleted and replaced with a vague in-service date of "fall 2018."

MAX Confusion?

Milkasso Asaro is one of the many local shop owners on 17th Avenue S.E. — and he has no idea when construction will end and the buses will roll.

"No one's talked to us about construction," said Asaro, who owns TG Juice at 3513 17th Ave. S.E.

"I wish they'd be done soon, we'd be happy and business would go back to normal."

Not even the head of the city's transportation committee has been able to nail it down when "normal" will happen.

"I'm looking for answers that will give us implementation dates," said Shane Keating, who is also the councillor for Ward 12.

Milkasso Asaro has owned TG Juice at 3513 17th Ave. S.E. for two years. He says he wishes someone from the city would provide more details about when construction on the BRT outside his shop will end or when bus service will start. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Once the buses do roll, they're expected to have a new name: MAX.

Keating says he's been getting calls about it all.

"We've had a number of residents' inquiries about when — they're anxiously waiting," he said.

But Keating says when he makes inquiries to city administration about the delays, there's no clear response on deadlines. Keating is expecting some new information Oct. 1, when councillors will get an update from administration.

It's not just the southeast BRT that folks have been asking about, there's a couple of others as well: new crosstown BRTs in the north and south.

The south route, at a cost of $21 million, will run from Douglas Glen in the southeast to Westbrook in the southwest.

The north route, with a price tag of $28 million, will run between the Brentwood and Saddletowne LRT stations — with a lot of stops along the way, including the Alberta Children's Hospital and Foothills Medical Centre.

Calgary Transit plans to roll out all three routes at the same time, whenever that is.

The southwest BRT line, estimated to cost nearly $78 million, is under construction and is expected to open next fall.

More turmoil on 17th Avenue S.W.  

One of the other high-profile projects is upgrades to 17th Avenue S.W.

Underground utilities including old sewer pipes and water lines are being replaced, while the roadway and sidewalks are being rebuilt. The $44-million project is being done in multiple phases and included a summer shutdown to appease local business owners.

Work on the 17th Avenue S.W. revamp project, which involves replacing old sewer pipes and water lines, could possibly stretch into 2020, a city spokesperson said. (CBC)

Work could wrap up next year, but it could possibly stretch into 2020. The original timeline suggested completion in 2017.

"The timeline changes that we've made on this project have been in consultation with largely the business community along 17th Avenue. It's an impactful project to them," said city spokesperson Quinn Eastlick.

"It's a bit early to say how it will impact the budget and if it will impact the overall budget of the project," he said.

So, along with the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being spent on these projects, there's a fair amount of uncertainty for commuters and taxpayers.


Calgary: The Road Ahead is CBC Calgary's special focus on our city as it passes through the crucible of the downturn: the challenges we face, and the possible solutions as we explore what kind of Calgary we want to create. Have an idea? Email us at calgarytheroadahead@cbc.ca.


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About the Author

Bryan Labby

Enterprise reporter

Bryan Labby is an enterprise reporter with CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach him at bryan.labby@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.

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