Council to debate and vote on future of $4.9 billion Green Line LRT
CALGARY -- Calgary councillors are set to make a decision on the future of the $4.9 billion first phase of the Green Line LRT project this week.
The debate will continue over the line’s proposed alignment as costs continue to be a major concern.
Calgary’s Green Line Committee already voted 8-5 in favour of recommendations for the first phase, which would see the LRT line run from Shepard in the southeast to 16 Avenue North.
The committee's proposal included a bridge over the Bow River to connect downtown with Centre Street North, the introduction of a 9 Avenue North station and the option for a portal into a new development in Eau Claire.
As part of the proposal, the committee also recommended an enhanced Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) developer for north-central Calgary.
While these changes have been approved at committee, further changes could still be made at the June 15 full meeting of council.
Based on the council agenda, the Green Line may not be discussed until Tuesday afternoon.
City council approved the full vision for the Green Line LRT back in June 2017 and construction of the first 20 kilometres is expected to begin in 2021.
Lower risk, higher value
Some councillors are raising major concerns over the escalating costs of the Green Line.
Councillors Jeff Davison, Diane Colley-Urquhart and Ward Sutherland are renewing their call for a "lower-risk, higher value" option for the Green Line and north Calgary.
The group says the project’s estimated capital cost of $4.9 billion doesn’t include interest on debt and they estimate those financing costs will be an additional $639.9 million.
"Calgary taxpayers can’t afford the current risky alignment. Our proposal reduces financial risk while improving service by connecting the communities of southeast Calgary with downtown," Davison said.
Colley-Urquhart added that the project could cost even more in the long run.
"This isn’t a $4.9 billion plan, it’s a $5.5 billion plan. And we will need several billion more to build the remaining 26 km north and south," she said.
"On top of all of this, taxpayers will have to fund operating and maintenance costs."
"Grasping at straws"
Mayor Nenshi says council was already aware of the more than $600 million in additional interest when it last debated the project and the trio of Davison, Sutherland and Colley-Urquhart are "grasping at straws" to halt the project's progress.
"It’s very clear that these members want to kill the Green Line. They want to. They’re going to talk about delay, they’re going to talk about more study. This has been exhaustively studied. I’m telling you right now if we don’t go over the bridge in the first round, the people of north-central Calgary will never get an LRT."
Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu also released a statement regarding his support of the Green Line Project. He says it’s crucial to helping his constituents in northCalgary.
Chu says the Green Line will attract more investment in development in inner-city communities along Centre Street North and create more opportunities for businesses to set up. He adds the project would also result in restructured transit routes and lead Calgary in a path forward where the downtown core is no longer the sole focus.