Final west LRT route ratified by Calgary council

Despite a last push to change the proposed route, Calgary city council voted to move ahead as planned with the west leg of the LRT.

Tendering process can now begin for tentative 2009 construction

The debate by Calgary city council ran about three hours Monday night. ((Rick Donkers/CBC))

Despite a last push to change the proposed route, Calgary city council voted to move ahead as planned with the west leg of the LRT.

The C-Train will chug up the middle of Bow Trail at street level, head underground as it swings south onto 17th Avenue at 33rd Street, and then rumble back to ground level at 41st Street.

By the end of Monday night's three-hour debate, many councillors were relieved to see the project, which came under pressure from various community interests, move ahead.

"I think there was a danger that we were looking into community versus community," said Ald. Brian Pincott.

Ald. Joe Connelly tried to amend the route to address concerns from his Ward 6 constituents who live in the west end of the proposed leg.

He asked council to divert $94 million from the province's municipal sustainability fund to pay for burying the tracks at 45th Street and 17th Avenue, so emergency vehicles from fire, paramedic and police stations there don't have to manoeuvre around the tracks.

"I've got 592 emails, which makes it a pretty significant issue for myself and my ward. And that is what I am telling you, council, this is why this is the easiest way to do this," Connelly argued.

To save on costs, he also suggested shortening the route to stop just west of Sarcee Trail.

Both of Connelly's proposals were voted down.

"The community really hasn't been listened to, in terms of what works in that area," said Warren Korol, past president of the Westgate Community Association.

"We live in the area, and we know what would work, so we are disappointed," he said.

"Some things make logical sense. That is not what was done here in the interests of time, perhaps, and of money and so on," reflected Veronika Duska who lives in Glendale. "The best was not exactly done."

Communities lobbied for changes

The final route for the eight-kilometre, six-station west line has dragged on since the original $700-million plan was approved by city council in November.

That blueprint called for an elevated track running 22 metres over Crowchild Trail. Residents of Sunalta and Scarboro protested the plan, citing concerns over noise and the height of the track.

Ald. Joe Connelly's amendments to the west LRT alignment were rejected by his colleagues. ((Rick Donkers/CBC))

They agreed in May to a compromise that would push a portion of the tracks northward and move a section down to street level. That was ratified by city council Monday evening.

In addition, council left open the possibility that a planned elevated station in Sunalta could be changed to one at ground level.

In the end, Duska said she wasn't impressed with the process.

"It certainly makes me want to go home, take a shower and go on with your private life. To see what can be done, it doesn't leave you with a satisfied feeling," she said.

Monday's ratification now moves the project to the tendering stage, with a request for qualifications this summer to create a shortlist of companies, and a request for proposals this fall, with construction to begin in 2009.

It's estimated that 40,000 people will ride trains daily from the west side to downtown when the line opens, tentatively scheduled for 2012.

With files from Rick Donkers