Committee votes in favour of new Green Line path — but project's future is still uncertain

The revised alignment for the Green Line was approved during a committee meeting on Tuesday but the $4.9-billion project's future remains uncertain, as it still needs to face council before moving forward.

$4.9-billion project has been hotly debated

A rendering of what a Green Line bridge over the Bow River could look like, including a pedestrian walkway. (City of Calgary)

The revised alignment for the Green Line was approved during a committee meeting on Tuesday but the $4.9-billion project's future remains uncertain, as it still needs to face council before moving forward.

After two days of lengthy discussion, the committee voted 8-5 in favour of administration's recommendation, which would see the train run from Shepard in the southeast to 16th Avenue north, shorten the LRT tunnel through downtown and build a bridge to carry the line across the Bow River.

But a number of amendments to the plan were brought forward to be discussed at council's June 15 meeting, where councillors will vote on whether or not the project will be approved to start construction next spring.

Four councillors — Jyoti Gondek, Jeff Davison, Ward Sutherland and Peter Demong — proposed an alternative approach to the project on Monday, which would see construction start on the south end of the project, with a bus rapid transit route introduced in the north. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi called that plan a "terrible idea."

Nenshi said that the 16th Avenue station is expected to bring in a higher number of new riders than a station in McKenzie Towne.

He also cast doubt on whether that plan would ever see the north leg of the project completed.

"Anyone who says don't go over the river now, we'll go over the river later, is actually saying we won't get an LRT in the north and I don't think that's right," he said.

Why some city councillors say the Green Line still needs rethinking. 7:51

But Gondek has said she sees it as a more certain way to get better transit service to her constituents in north Calgary.

Coun. Shane Keating, chair of the Green Line committee, said despite competing interests, he feels support for the line remains strong.

"What we have to do is separate the chatter from the reality. And the reality is the Green Line is definitely needed," he said.

As of the end of April, $543 million has already been spent on the project, and the federal and provincial governments have agreed to match council's $1.5-billion commitment to the project.

It's expected to bring 20,000 jobs to the city.

But during the pandemic, a group of business people argued the economics of the project have changed and called for a pause or changes like ditching low-floor light rail vehicles or no longer having the train line travel across the river.

Coun. Joe Magliocca, who has consistently opposed the project, said he could not support it as he did not want to put taxpayer dollars at risk.

Magliocca's expenses dating back to 2017 are under investigation, as he was found to have expensed meals and alcohol for meetings that never took place.

The full infrastructure project would be the largest ever built in Calgary, serving more than 60,000 riders each day. It would see 46 kilometres of track and 28 stations connect 160th Avenue north to Seton once both stages are complete.

It would cost $40 million to operate each year.

Coun. Druh Farrell said it's time to move forward with the line, in its entirety.

"I'm very concerned that we will truncate this line, it will be less effective, it will serve fewer Calgarians," said Coun. Druh Farrell.

The first stage of the project, if approved by council, is expected to be under construction from 2021 to 2026.

With files from Scott Dippel


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