Calgary

Calgary's green line will have a shorter tunnel downtown to keep budget on track

City officials unveiled the revised plan Tuesday afternoon for getting the Green Line LRT project through downtown.

Councillor says revised LRT plan may not satisfy everyone

The City of Calgary has released the revised plan for getting the Green Line through downtown — a shorter tunnel — to help the project stay within its budget. (City of Calgary)

City officials unveiled the revised plan Tuesday afternoon for getting the Green Line LRT project through downtown Calgary.

The original plan called for a four-kilometre-long tunnel that would stretch from Centre Street north and 16th Avenue to Fourth Street S.E. in the Beltline.

After discovering technical challenges that could potentially push the project over the $4.9-billion budget and result in stations up to seven stories underground, the Green Line team sharpened its pencils.

The City of Calgary's new plan for the Green Line in the downtown core. (Scott Dippell/CBC)

The revised plan shows the train line will remain on the surface of Centre Street from 16th Avenue north before going onto a bridge that will carry it over the Bow River and Prince's Island and landing at a surface station in Eau Claire.

From there, the Green Line will head into a tunnel below Second Street S.W. and go under the CPR mainline before turning east underneath 11th Avenue. 

It will emerge from the tunnel by the Victoria Park bus barn.

Changes may not be popular

Coun. Shane Keating, who chairs council's Green Line committee, said he expects some won't be happy with the revisions but said this is a good solution to the challenges the city is facing.

"It's just not possible to satisfy everyone," said Keating. 

The changes were necessary to keep the megaproject within its budget while still delivering on the goals of the Green Line.

"This fits within the budget. It gives the best customer experience. It gives the best ridership for the return on investment and that's what we have to look at," he said.

Coun. Druh Farrell told the committee she has concerns with how the revised Green Line plan will affect Prince's Island and the River Walk in Eau Claire.

She said she'll be looking for details from Green Line officials as the plan is further refined.

Committee briefed in private

The committee meeting started Tuesday morning with an indication that no information would be made public about the changes.

Green Line project head Michael Thompson said they had to meet behind closed doors to brief the committee about "commercially sensitive financial and legal information", to outline the options that were reviewed but ultimately rejected, and spell out what land needs to be acquired by the city for the new plan.

The decision to discuss the project in a closed meeting was panned by Coun. Jeromy Farkas.

He told reporters council was hurting the Green Line by not adequately informing Calgarians what is going on with the project.

"Including more people in the process is so crucial to building buy-in and unfortunately, defaulting to the secrecy I think is going to in the long run undermine the public support for what could be a really important and city-shaping project like the Green Line," said Farkas.

However as the day went on, officials said they intended to make the preferred option available during the public portion of the committee meeting.

Calgarians will be asked for input

The city plans on consulting with stakeholders affected by the changes to the Green Line plan from the original vision which was approved by council.

It will also hold online engagement and planning public information sessions in early March as well as pop-up sessions.

Thompson said some of the finer details of the proposal will be worked out over the next couple of months before the plan goes back to the Green Line committee and ultimately city council as a whole for a final vote.

Construction on the 16-kilometre southeast portion of the Green Line stretching from Inglewood to Shepard station is expected to start in spring 2021.

Thompson said they do not have an estimate yet on when construction on the downtown segment can begin. 

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