Calgary

Nenshi says delaying Green Line LRT could cost 'tens of millions of dollars'

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he's "very irritated" that procurement on the first stage of the Green Line LRT will be paused due to delays brought on by the provincial government. 

Province still hasn't shared report detailing its concerns, leading to pause on procurement

An artist's rendering of a ground-level station on the new Green Line LRT. The project could now be delayed due to concerns raised by the province in a report the government isn't sharing with the city. (City of Calgary)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he's "very irritated" that procurement on the first stage of the Green Line LRT will be paused due to delays brought on by the provincial government. 

On Wednesday, the city said it is still trying to work with the Alberta government on concerns raised in a report commissioned by the province but which has not been shared with the municipality. 

"That's now been six months, we've never seen the report or the review they've done," said Nenshi on Thursday morning. 

"We have no idea what it is they actually want. And this is 12,000 jobs at a time when they are desperately needed."

The $5.5-billion project is supposed to see construction start on the initial southeast leg this summer, but it's unclear whether that will happen now. 

"It's possible, but it's very tight," said Nenshi. 

Increased costs

He said the project could costs "tens of millions of dollars" more with months of delay. 

The province has pledged $1.53 billion for its share of the project, but had previously announced a delay in releasing that full amount.

The first instalment of provincial cash for capital spending on the project — $25 million — is scheduled for 2021, according to the latest budget.

On Wednesday, the province reiterated its position that it would not be held to "an arbitrary timeline" for the project and refused to address questions about increased costs due to delay. 

A tunnel for the Green Line in southeast Calgary. The city has already spent over $500 million on the project. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

"I would encourage you to follow up with the City of Calgary regarding the cost of the project," wrote McKenzie Kibler, the press secretary for Transport Minister Ric McIver. 

The province says it has provided detailed information to the city through ongoing conversations and a presentation to the Green Line project team by the author of the report commissioned by the Alberta government. 

The city has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the project, buying up properties and doing preparatory work.

'We need to stop stalling'

Coun. Jyoti Gondek is the vice-chair of the Green Line committee and the councillor for the area north of downtown that will see transit upgrades as it waits for eventual expansion of the train line. 

"So as much as people are worried about the Green Line being delayed, don't forget that north central Calgary, that's been patiently waiting for decades for any kind of upgrades, is waiting even longer," she said. 

"This is a very big deal. We need to stop stalling."

Gondek likened the behaviour of the province to a "passive-aggressive parent" who won't tell you what you did wrong and leaves you to figure it out. 

She said major organizations are anticipating the Green Line and making plans based on it moving forward, including the Calgary Flames and the Stampede. 

"Forget about the politics of whether the provincial government likes this council. It doesn't matter. The problem is, you're sacrificing jobs for Calgarians who are suffering, you're sacrificing economic stimulus for an economy that is devastated," said Gondek.

With files from Scott Dippel.

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