Green Line project to go ahead, despite calls to pause for review

City council hopes to have a plan for the downtown stretch before construction on the south leg is delayed.

'We absolutely need to move forward with the portion of the project that makes sense'

A rendering of what an underground station would look like on the new Green Line of Calgary's LRT system. (City of Calgary/Screenshot)

The Green Line LRT project is going forward, despite calls for a delay. 

However, the team behind the project is bringing in an independent third party to advise on risks related to the line's construction.

Administration proposed breaking the first stage of the city's next LRT line into two contracts — one for the stretch from 16th Avenue North through downtown into the Beltline, and another for the track from Victoria Park to Shepard station in the city's southeast.

The city wants to take more time to determine how the line will get through downtown now that engineers have concluded it would be too costly and complicated to build a tunnel under the Bow River.

Instead, the plan now calls for a CTrain bridge over the river and into a downtown tunnel.

Transportation manager Michael Thompson told council Monday evening that delays to the first segment would cost approximately $4 million each month, while acknowledging there are still questions to be answered about the second stretch.

However he said that doesn't mean there need to be further delays for engagement, as engagement has been ongoing and thorough.

"This project has been one of, if not the most engaged the City of Calgary has ever done," he said.

He said 80 per cent of the south leg is ready to go, while the plan for downtown can be finalized by January 2020. 

Coun. Evan Woolley had suggested the entire project should be paused for a review given the uncertainties. He withdrew his motion after council voted to approve 11 amendments — put forward by Coun. Shane Keating — to the recommendations from committee. 

"I've been given much better confidence and there are off-ramps, that we will not put a shovel in the ground on Contract 1 until that downtown product has been decided," Woolley said following the vote.

The amendments include:

  • Conducting a feasibility review of including the north corridor if the downtown stretch hasn't been resolved by January 2020.
  • Carrying out an independent review of the project.
  • Postponing a call for bids for the south stretch until it's been reviewed by the risk assessment committee.
  • Directing administration not to start construction until the plan for downtown has been finalized.

"I think that we're well set. We've brought the credibility back. We're well set for the timeline as well," said. Keating following Monday's session.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday's vote essentially ensures that the work that's been happening will continue.

"I'm very pleased that we're going forward. I'm very pleased that there's no pause, and that we will continue to do good work here," he said.

Coun. Jyoti Gondek wanted the line to get going so that plans for getting the trains to run further north aren't delayed.

"But I am also trying to be rational about the amount of work that has been done to date. We absolutely need to move forward with the portion of the project that makes sense, which is to go to the south in Stage 1 as proposed. Let's get started," she said.

Construction on the $4.9-billion Green Line is currently projected to start in 2021. The opening of the new line could be delayed until 2027.

When the entire Green Line is completed, the 46-kilometre track will have 28 stations and almost a quarter-million Calgarians are expected to use it daily. 

With files from Scott Dippel, Sarah Rieger and John Gibson


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