Calgary

Councillors worry about lack of consultation time on Green Line changes

Some city councillors are concerned about the lack of time for public consultation for the coming changes to the Green Line.

Report coming in January on changes for LRT line that will reduce cost

An artist's rendering of a ground-level station on the new Green Line LRT. (City of Calgary)

Some city councillors are concerned about the lack of time for public consultation for the coming changes to the Green Line.

Council decided in July to have the city do a review of the four-kilometre alignment through the downtown core to see if there can be significant savings by building less of it underground.

Technical assessments found that boring a tunnel from 16 Avenue North under the Bow River and underneath Second Street S.W. downtown to the Beltline could result in stations being seven stories below the street.

There were also concerns that building that much tunnel could push the Green Line's costs as much as 10 per cent over the $4.9 billion budget.

In a report to council's transportation committee, administration noted it's looking at shortening the tunnel, reducing the number of underground stations, taking the line across the Bow River on a bridge and even shifting the alignment downtown to "adjacent streets or avenues" instead of using Second Street S.W. 

A report on alternative methods of getting the Green Line through the core is expected in January. 

But city officials plan to discuss their plan with key stakeholders and do some public consultation this fall.

Short timeline

Coun. Druh Farrell told the committee that doesn't leave much time for Calgarians, especially if the changes are big ones.

"We're changing maybe everything, I'm not sure. But that's boiled down now to a couple of months," said Farrell.

Coun. Evan Woolley expressed concerns about big changes to the Green Line plan, especially when it comes to putting more of the train line on the street level.

He said that the city hasn't had much success in designing on-street LRT alignments that integrate well with surrounding communities.

"Crunch time is on," Woolley told the committee.

"My concern is we're not going to see the design level to give communities confidence to support this and give me the confidence to support this come January. And if that demonstration doesn't happen, I think you're in for a really, really big fight."

A rendering of what the underground station at Centre Street and Ninth Avenue North would look like if Calgary goes with a tunnel for the route of the new Green Line of the LRT system. (City of Calgary/Screenshot)

Not everyone wants to slow down

But Coun. Jeff Davison said he's fine with the current timeline and there's no need to slow down the project any further after years of preparation to get to this point.

"We absolutely have to rush these things and absolutely get on with it or we are going to be looking at a full-scale pause or revision of the entire project," said Davison.

One of the strongest Green Line proponents on council was more sanguine about the process and the coming changes to the project.

Coun. Shane Keating said after the meeting that the experts are hard at work on alternative plans and there is enough time for consultation ahead of a report to council in January.

"The focus — coming back to what happened today and the changes recommended today — allows for that focus to be on Stage 1. Which is the 20 kilometres we need to focus on right now, 16 (kilometres) immediately and four (kilometres) in the near future," said Keating.

The city has a request for qualification (RFQ) out for what's called the 16-kilometre long conventional build of the Green Line from Ramsay to Shepard station at 126 Avenue S.E.

Decisions will be made on that contract next year with construction to start in 2021.

Outside experts weigh in

Council's transportation committee also heard Wednesday from the new technical and risk committee that has been formed to advise the city on Green Line construction issues.

The independent four member panel is made up of engineers who have worked on or consulted on major projects in Canada and elsewhere.

Their resumes list work they've done on other transit projects, bridge projects and tunnels.

The chair of the panel, Don Fairbairn, said they reviewed the RFQ for the first segment of the Green Line and found no problems. 

It concluded that if the evaluation process for the bidders is properly conducted, it will likely result in the city finding the best submission to do the work.

In addition to accepting the report, the transportation committee voted to recommend that a separate Green Line council committee be established to handle future decisions on the megaproject.

Right now, Green Line matters go through several council committees before reaching the floor of city council.

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