Calgary

Green Line divisions open up on going north

Three councillors want to shorten the first stage of the Green Line because they're concerned about the risks and costs associated with the megaproject.

Some councillors concerned about potential total cost of next LRT line

An artist's rendering of a ground-level station on the proposed Green Line LRT. According to Mayor Nenshi, this is exactly the moment to be investing in projects like this one, which will create an estimated 20,000 jobs. (City of Calgary)

Three Calgary councillors want to shorten the first stage of the Green Line because they're concerned about the risks and costs associated with the megaproject.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi is warning that any move to cut out crossing the Bow River to reach north Calgary will mean that part of the city may not see the CTrain for a long time to come.

Councillors Jeff Davison, Diane Colley-Urquhart and Ward Sutherland issued a news release Tuesday to say the city should focus on the southeast portion of the Green Line to the core rather than building a bridge over the Bow to reach Crescent Heights.

"Calgary taxpayers can't afford the current risky alignment," said Davison.

The councillors say they'd rather see improved bus rapid transit (BRT) service to north central Calgary instead of the expensive LRT option at this time.

They say that "new information" puts the cost of the Green Line at $5.5 billion, once the cost of paying off debt is included.

However that new information isn't new at all.

Council already voted on financing

In November 2017, city council voted 13-2 to take $23.7 million of tax room vacated by the province and use that money for 27 years to pay the interest charges associated with Green Line borrowing.

Councillors Jeromy Farkas and Joe Magliocca were the only ones to vote against that decision.

As a result of a 2014 council vote, the city will cover its share of Green Line construction costs by setting aside $52 million in property tax money for 30 years.  

Sutherland said rather than talk about the $4.9-billion Green Line, it should be referred to as the $5.5-billion Green Line.

"So we're saying stop at the river. Make sure we have the money to build it properly and then take a look at the north" said Sutherland.

He suggests money saved from not taking the LRT across the river could be put toward improving BRT service to north Calgary.

He's also willing to see how the bids come in from companies that want to build the Green Line and then council could decide how to proceed.

Mayor sees attempt to kill LRT line

Mayor Naheed Nenshi acknowledged there is some unhappiness with the current proposed alignment that council will be voting on next week.

The proposed first phase of the Green Line would run from Shepard Station in the southeast, primarily on the surface, to reach a downtown tunnel. 

The CTrain would emerge in Eau Claire and then use a bridge to cross the Bow to land in the middle of Centre Street before terminating at 16th Avenue North.

The Green Line would be extended further north and further south as money becomes available in the future.

But Nenshi said it's critical to use the $3 billion in federal and provincial money that's now on the table to build the most expensive part of the Green Line, the portion through the core.

Lop off the bridge north, and Nenshi told reporters Tuesday that the LRT's future expansion to communities in northern Calgary will never happen.

"What these councillors are proposing is: throw the plan out the window. Say goodbye to the north and say someday, we might win the lottery and we might go north. That's not a plan," said the mayor.

"I believe it's called grasping at straws. It's very clear that these members want to kill the Green Line."

$3 billion for Calgary jeopardized

The city has already taken steps to keep the project on budget by shortening the tunnel through the core.

The revised alignment was approved recently by council's Green Line committee on an 8-5 vote.

There's another twist. Nenshi said if council rejects going even as far as 16th Avenue in the north, it might result in the federal or provincial governments pulling their LRT money off the table.

"Absolutely, because it's predicated on a line that will eventually serve north central and southeast Calgary."

City council will vote on the revised Green Line alignment and potential amendments during its meeting next week.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated that Councillors Druh Farrell and Joe Magliocca had voted against using $23.7 million in tax room to fund the Green Line. However, while the City of Calgary's meeting minutes said those councillors had voted against, the minutes were incorrect. In fact, Councillors Jeromy Farkas and Magliocca had voted against the move.
    Jun 09, 2020 8:46 PM MT

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