Calgary

City seeks Green Line consultant report for 'better understanding' of provincial concerns

Calgary officials will make a formal request to the provincial government for confidential access to a consultant's report that they say would help them better understand ongoing disagreements.

Provincial spokesperson says releasing report 'will not change the need for further answers'

A rendering of what a Green Line bridge over the Bow River could look like, including a pedestrian walkway. Calgary is seeking a copy of the consultant’s report to better understand concerns raised by the provincial ministry. (City of Calgary)

Calgary officials will make a formal request to the provincial government for confidential access to a consultant's report on the Green Line LRT that they say would help them better understand ongoing disagreements.

But in a statement, a representative with the province said releasing the report would "not change the need for further answers for taxpayers."

The province and city council have been engaged in a war of words in recent days over the next steps surrounding the $5.5-billion mega-project. 

Alberta Transportation Thursday that the city did not have "any credible plan" to connect the initial southeast portion of the Green Line with the downtown segment, which is to be built later.

"I was a bit irritated, I don't mind saying, with the statement yesterday that suggested the city does not have a credible option," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Friday.

"There is a plan, and you can disagree with it, but don't cast aspersions on the work that's been done, and show your work."

City council did receive some correspondence from the provincial government, Nenshi said Friday, that began to detail some concerns held by the province.

"I, for one, am actually quite pleased that we have something that is written down highlighting where they are at with the Green Line project," he said.

"While I disagree with a number of the assertions the province is making, I feel that at least now we have straightened out the playing field."

Seeking additional detail outlining the province's concerns, council's Green Line committee passed a motion on Friday that called on the province to confidentially share the consultant's report with Don Fairbairn, the chair of the new Green Line board.

On Wednesday, the city paused procurement on the first stage of the Green Line because of the provincial concerns about the plan.

Province cites 'serious, expert concerns'

In an email, McKenzie Kibler, press secretary for Transportation Minister Ric McIver, said "serious, expert concerns" had been raised whether the planned budget for the Green Line will fall short of completing the project.

"The government of Alberta remains supportive of the Green Line, but due diligence is required to deliver a functional transit project," Kibler said. 

"Releasing the report will not change the need for further answers for taxpayers. We look forward to working with city officials to clarify outstanding questions, as we have been doing since October."

Kibler did not immediately respond to a follow-up email requesting more detail on the province's approach to the report.

This map shows the approved alignment for the Green Line. (City of Calgary)

Coun. Shane Keating, who chairs council's Green Line committee, said that the concerns as stated so far do not make sense to him.

"If there are pointed questions, and solid data exchanged, and an open mind, I think every problem is solvable," Keating said. "But you have to have all three of those at the same time."

Previously, Kibler told CBC News that the current configuration of the Green Line has issues with cost estimates, contingencies "and procurement strategy related to procuring segment one separately from the downtown segments."

Though Keating cannot talk publicly about specific concerns, he said receiving the initial detail could provide an opportunity for city and provincial officials to sit down and begin to discuss outstanding concerns.

"If they are very interested in actually addressing and putting to rest their concerns in a listen to the experts-style, then I think it's a possibility," he said. 

"If they're more interested in changing things on the Green Line, I don't see that happening in the near future."

City officials hope the issues can be sorted out in three months or less. Should delays persist past that point, it could jeopardize construction in 2021, which would push up costs.

With files from Scott Dippel, Drew Anderson and John Gibson.

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