Contract changes could delay opening of $4.6B Green Line project to 2027

Construction was supposed to start next year on the 4.6 billion dollar Green Line, but the sheer size of the project and technical issues are slowing it down.

Local business group asked committee to pause entire project for reassessment

Construction was supposed to start next year on the $4.6 billion Green Line to expand Calgary's transit service. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

The City of Calgary may break the $4.9-billion Green Line into three separate contracts, which would push the start of construction to 2021 and the opening of the line to 2027.

The three stretches would be the portion of the line that would tunnel under downtown, the stretch from Fourth Street to 126th Avenue S.E. and the work to relocate underground utilities downtown, council heard during a report from administration on the status of the project on Wednesday.

Those downtown stretches would be costly — with costs of $550 million for each kilometre built underground, compared to $150 million for each above-ground kilometre. 

The contract changes weren't the only pivot that came up during the meeting. 

A group of prominent businessmen addressed the transportation committee meeting to criticize the project, saying it would cost $7 billion — not $4.9 billion — and calling for a one-year pause to rethink the whole thing. 

Steve Allan with Calgary Economic Development and former Stantec executive Barry Lester suggested an elevated line would save money, and allow more local companies to get work on the project.

But both Couns. Druh Farrell and Evan Woolley said an elevated line has been looked at, and wouldn't work.

Transportation committee chair Coun. Shane Keating said that delays could be costly — $50 million a year on the first contract, which would be the stretch from Fourth Street to 126th Avenue S.E., according to administration.

"Let's move and let's move now," Keating said.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra called the group's proposal "a significant gauntlet," and said administration is already considering a serious pivot by saying the project is too big to do in a single contract. 

"Is this an existential questioning of the project or is this a concern about elements of the project?" Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra asked, adding that he's never wavered on this project being a "backbone for the city for the next 100 years."


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