Calgary's West LRT project $35M over budget

A council committee heard Wednesday morning that the entire West LRT project is currently $35 million over budget and costs will go even higher.

Council committee also decides to temporarily withhold spending on public art

A council committee heard Wednesday morning that the entire West LRT project is currently $35 million over budget and costs will go even higher.

The transportation and transit committee heard the increased construction costs are due to overall project enhancements, remediation of contaminated land and other contractual items.

Some of the enhancements include extensions to sound walls, pathway connections and landscaping around stations.

The new west LRT line is seen in this City of Calgary drawing. (City of Calgary)

The total cost for the project is now estimated at $1.4 billion, but the figure doesn’t include additional land costs as the acquisition process has not been completed.

The spiralling cost of the project has some members of city council saying it's a good candidate for an audit.

Ald. Brian Pincott, who is the chair of the audit committee, says it makes sense to review a project of this scope.

Committee decides to hold back on art

The committee also voted to temporarily withhold any spending on art for the West LRT line.

The project is now 80 per cent done but no money has been spent on public installations.

Under the city's policy of allocating one per cent of a project's budget to public art, about $8.6 million should have been spent for the new LRT line.

However, none of that money is currently in the budget — so commissioning artwork will only add to the cost over-runs on the LRT line.

Pincott is angry administration was able to circumvent city policy on public art.

"Well that's what I want to know," Pincott said. "How did it happen? It's just ... we have some departments who profess their support for the public art policy and yet it regularly feels like it's a challenge to have them follow council policy. It's unacceptable."

The committee voted not to allow any money for art until a previously-ordered review of the policy is completed.

While the motion was passed by the committee, it still has yet to be approved by city council.

The West LRT is expected to open in early next year.

Map of West LRT leg. (City of Calgary)