City has already spent $544M on Green Line, but no tracks down yet

The Green Line may currently only exist on paper, but the city has already spent more than half a billion dollars on the project.

Buying land, hiring consultants and prepping right of way all pave way for construction

An artist's rendering of a ground-level station on the new Green Line LRT. The city has already spent $544 million on the project. (City of Calgary)

The Green Line may currently only exist on paper, but the city has already spent more than half a billion dollars on the project.

Work has actually been going on since 2012 and each level of government has chipped in cash.

All of the spending has happened with a view towards preparing for LRT construction, which could begin in the spring of 2021.

According to figures provided by the City of Calgary, the spending on the Green Line to the end of April 2020 breaks down like this:

Land carries the biggest pricetag. This is the cost to the city of acquiring land that will be needed where the Green Line will be built and operated.

This figure will go higher. Currently, the city estimates that it has acquired 80 per cent of the land it needs for the first segment of the Green Line.

Lots of consultants

Design and engineering has involved the hiring of external consultants and companies to do planning work on the project.

The head of the Green Line team, Michael Thompson, said consultants have been working on different elements of the project for years now and it's what he calls a very large team.

"We're out doing geotechnical work to understand what the ground conditions are through the downtown," Thompson said. "When we're doing bridge planning and design, we have to look at things like the environmental conditions. So we've got biologists and environmental scientists to help us understand the impact of the bridge.

"We've got rail designers, electrical engineers, architects, land use planners. Obviously, we've got legal consultants and lawyers working with us to draft contracts."

The city's own costs relate to the people in the transportation department who have been working on the Green Line project for several years now.

'Enabling works'

As for construction, this is the city's enabling works program for the $5 billion LRT line.

Technically, Thompson notes this work has been going on as far back as 2012 when the city started preparations for a dedicated busway in the southeast. That project eventually morphed into the Green Line.

The program involves preparing the land for the construction of the Green Line.

Thompson said enabling works have included things like moving or adding underground utilities, remediating two old landfills near Highfield Boulevard southeast and clearing the right of way ahead of LRT construction.

And more work must be completed before that can happen.

"We've got some construction going on right now in the Highfield Boulevard area where we've actually been creating an underpass for the train with respect to the existing CN Rail lines," said Thompson. 

"So there's a lot of work that's been going on and it's really the tip of iceberg with all of the major work coming up in the future."

No debt racked up

About half of the money that's been spent so far has come from the federal and provincial governments. As a result, the city has not had to finance any of the spending so far.

"We've used different grant programs from the provincial and federal governments to move forward with that and we've also had the funding that's been coming in consistently from the city so we haven't incurred additional debt to do these projects," Thompson said.

An updated version of the Green Line alignment will be voted on by city council next week.

If council chooses to proceed with the project, the city will start taking bids from companies interested in building the portion of the line stretching from Shepard station in the southeast to Victoria Park.

It's considered to be more conventional LRT construction as most of the project is on the ground, although there are some short tunnels and an elevated section in Ramsay.

The city wants more time to prepare to take bids on the more complex portion of the first stage of the Green Line through the downtown. Construction on that part of the line is currently forecast to start in the spring of 2022.


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