CALGARY -- Work began Thursday on upgrades to the Victoria Park/Stampede LRT station, a project that will also see 17th Avenue extended across Macleod Trail S.E.

The aim of the project is to connect the Beltline neighbourhood with the entertainment district.

It will also connect people to the Stampede grounds and the BMO Centre, which is in the midst of a $500-million expansion, with a target reopening date in 2024.

“Today’s ground-breaking is the first highly visible step in a process that’s actually been underway since 2019,” said Kate Thompson, president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.

“We look forward to project-managing this work over the next two years to give Calgarians an improved LRT station as well as a practical connection between neighbouring Rivers District communities.”

Thomson said the $83-million project will provide "huge east-west connectivity" for the area.

Getting across Macleod Trail S.E. will be different for pedestrians as work progresses, as the stairs and overpasses at 15th Avenue S.E. will be gone and two, at-grade pedestrian crossings will be added instead.

“This infrastructure project is well aligned with Calgary Transit’s ongoing work to improve accessibility across our system,” said Chris Jordan, Calgary Transit’s service design manager.

“The changes happening at the Victoria Park/Stampede LRT station will benefit all transit customers in the area. When it’s complete, customers will benefit from a shorter approach to the platforms which may reduce commute times.”

One of the first stages in the project will be the construction of a new, temporary LRT station and platform.

CMLC is also managing the extension of 17th Avenue S.E. across the LRT tracks into Stampede Park.

“The extension of 17th Avenue is long-needed linkage in the area that will help Calgarians be better connected to this historic and iconic part of the city,” said Jim Laurendeau, vice-president of park planning and development with Calgary Stampede.

“This project kick-off, coming on the heels of this year’s Stampede, means attendees will soon have another option for accessing the park. Not only that, it opens up Stampede Park to the west, providing better access for our neighbours in the Beltline and beyond.”

The new LRT station is scheduled for completion in 2023.