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Inaugural Green Line Committee meeting goes off the rails

Last Updated Nov 15, 2019 at 4:57 pm MDT

FILE PHOTO: Green Line SE map. (CREDIT: City Of Calgary)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Calgary councillors sat down around the horseshoe for their first meeting of the Green Line LRT Committee on Friday, but by most accounts, it did not go very well.

“I think this was absolutely not a productive meeting of this committee,” Ward 6 Councillor and committee vice-chair Jeff Davison said to reporters outside the Council Chambers.

“I think we did very well, for about 20 minutes,” added Ward 12 Councillor and committee chair Shane Keating, with a chuckle. “There was about twenty minutes to a half-hour that went sideways.”

It was punctuated by a faceoff between Councillors Evan Woolley and Jyoti Gondek, as Woolley accused Gondek of being “livid”, and Gondek said she has also been accused of being “distracting” by bringing up the fact the Green Line proposal as it stands now will start in south Calgary, rather than in the north where her riding is.

Gondek shot back at Woolley about his comment, and the inner-city councillor was also asked to apologize.

RELATED: Provincial bill casts further doubt on Green Line LRT

Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland looked distressed at times and said there was a problem with different levels of government and how councillors seem to be focused on only their own areas.

But at the crux of the issue is the lack of answers and the multitude of questions.

“Where’s the line going to go? Who’s it going to service? Is it going to go north? Is it going to go south? How do we get through the downtown?” asked Davison. “These are all questions six years later we should be ready to answer, and we’re not there.”

Davison and Keating agreed they wanted to set the right tone early, but that seemed to fail.

“The churn continues,” Keating lamented.

A somewhat controversial plan was also presented to split the Green Line at 7th Avenue S.W. in the downtown core, meaning it wouldn’t actually go through the core and passengers would still need to jump on the red or blue lines.

Green Line project lead Michael Thompson said all options are on the table now, as cost remains a major concern.

Though there was skepticism about that idea as well.

“Because are we really doing a service if we take people off buses and put them on LRT, but we don’t change the patterns of congestion in the city?” Keating asked. “Splitting the line might be the best thing we can do, but if we lose 30,000 riders, that’s not the best thing. But if we save $500 million, that might be the best thing to do.”

“If you look at every major city around the world, there’s terminus points to trains. Trains can run from downtown to the peripheral edges of those communities. They do it with success,” said Davison.

Davison added there needs to be special attention paid to the subject of money, due to the harsh economic times we are in and financial uncertainty in the wake of the Alberta budget.

On that note, business owners sent a letter to Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell expressing concern about how the construction could affect them.

“We really have to be mindful right now that we’re not in an ideal economic situation. So, while at the time, we’re trying to deliver something great for Calgarians, there’s other factors that are going to impress upon the structure of how we put this together,” said Davison.

There will be a report presented next month on the viability of splitting the line, and no decision was made on that during Friday’s meeting.

Overall, the frustration was palpable as there seems to be a bit of doubt that any significant progress can be made right now.

“The idea behind putting some guiding principles together, is so that you stand the committee up, there’s structure, and we can move forward quickly and efficiently,” explained Davison. “This is just more of the same that has been going on for the past six years.”