Calgary

Green Line likely delayed as city hits pause due to provincial concerns

Calgary has put a pause on the Green Line due to ongoing engagement with the province over concerns it raised about the project. 

Issues first raised by province on Oct. 9 forced city to halt procurement on first stage

An artist's rendering of a ground-level station on the new Green Line LRT. The city has hit pause on procurement for the project as discussions with the province continue. (City of Calgary)

Calgary has put a pause on the Green Line due to ongoing engagement with the province over concerns it raised about the project. 

"After significant engagement with the provincial government, the city has made the decision to pause the segment 1 procurement schedule to provide time to conclude the work with the province," reads a release from the city. 

"We do not believe it is responsible to continue with the current procurement while discussions with the province are evolving."

The delay in procurement means the project will likely not meet its target to start construction in the summer. 

Proponents of the project warned just over a week ago that the project could be delayed because of foot dragging by the province on addressing issues raised in a report commissioned by the province that the city had not seen as of Dec. 8.

"It confirms the concerns we had last week," said Jeff Binks with advocacy group LRT on the Green. 

"We didn't want those concerns to be confirmed, but here we are a week before Christmas and it looks like we're going to be facing a delay of a few months, at the very least, because of the provincial review."

Work continues

Details on the length of the delay aren't known at this time and the city says in its email sent to stakeholders that it continues to work on moving the project forward, including board recruitment, enabling works and planning for the second stage of the project. 

On Oct. 9, Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver wrote a letter reaffirming his government's $1.5-billion commitment to the project, but said a review had turned up concerns. 

He listed costs and the current design, contingencies, governance structure and the "overall procurement strategy" as issues. 

Those concerns were based on a report written by Nick Hann for the province, but that report has not been shared with the city. 

Provincial response

When concerns about a possible delay were first revealed just over a week ago, a spokesperson for McIver said the province has been in regular contact with the city regarding the concerns outlined in the report and Hann has conveyed his conclusions directly to the project team. 

The written response to questions also said the province said it would not be held to an "arbitrary timeline at the expense of a functional transit project." 

The spokesperson for the ministry reiterated that same message on Wednesday night.

"I would encourage you to follow up with the City of Calgary regarding the cost of the project," they said when asked about increased costs associated with the delay. 

'We can't even get past go'

The $5.5-billion Green Line is the largest infrastructure project in the city's history and has been under design and review for years. 

Provincial money was to start flowing for capital funding of the project in 2021, according to the latest Alberta budget. 

In total, it will contribute $1.53 billion to the project. 

Coun. Shane Keating, chair of the Green Line committee, says he's past the point of frustration with the province. 

"We're only talking about starting on segment 1 … We can't even get past go. Which is absolutely ridiculous. And I think everyone should phone the province and say 'Merry Christmas, thanks for the present,'" he said. 

Keating said he's seen no evidence of validity of the province's concerns. 

"Are we going to see construction in 2021? Not unless the province moves awfully fast."

'What you get for your money'

The current iteration of the project was approved by a vote of 14-1 by city council after years of acrimonious debate and changes to the alignment and design of the project. 

"We're going to see, unfortunately, I think, costs rise because of this delay," said Binks. 

"And the longer this takes, the more the costs will go up and that impacts how much of the project you can actually build and what you get for your money."

It's estimated the project will create 12,000 jobs during construction. 

About the Author

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca. Signal contact upon request. CBC Secure Drop: www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

With files from Dave Will

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