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Designs for Green Line project not coming until new year

Last Updated Dec 17, 2019 at 4:10 pm MDT

(PHOTO: Saif Kaisar, 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Calgarians will have to wait a bit longer to know what the Green Line LRT alignment will look like.

Initially, the Green Line Committee was to hear three different design proposals with a final plan to be presented in January.

However, that was delayed right off the bat during a meeting Tuesday morning.

“Now we’re going to wait till January to maybe talk about options and then March is when we will have a conversation,” said Councillor Jyoti Gondek.

“Welcome to my world,” Committee Chair Shane Keating said, as he lamented the delays while talking to reporters following the meeting.

“I have to admit that the frustration level is extremely high.”

But even so, Keating felt the delay is the correct move and it can put them on the right track to getting the project moving forward properly.

What will happen in January is committee members, and ideally the rest of council, will meet in a closed session to sift through the plans and help make the right decision.

“[Either] we endorse the direction we’re going in, go talk to stakeholders, bring it back for approval in March. Or, holy cow, we got to get something else on the table,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi during the meeting.

“I think those are the two options, I certainly don’t want it to be, let’s just wallow in the data for a long time.”

“It’s going to be the former, not the latter, let’s be clear,” chimed in Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra.

“Come on, let’s go please,” Keating pleaded as he tried to wrap up debate.

“Here’s hoping,” Nenshi concluded.

Several previously known ideas on the Green Line did come up for discussion again, including reducing the line going underground, from four kilometres to just over two kilometres.

Administration also said there should be a bridge over the Bow River, not a tunnel, and the LRT should be built at-grade along Centre Street.

RELATED: Committee to review potential Green Line blueprints

The downtown portion is also a vital part of the discussions as it’s estimated ridership could decrease significantly if the two sections of the line don’t directly connect or reach to the core.
“The challenge in the Rivers district is how do you transition from that area into the core,” said Green Line GM Michael Thompson.

“Getting into the core is really where we want to be. If we were to terminate it at 4th Street, we would lose 50 per cent of the ridership. If we terminate it at 10th Avenue and 2nd Street, we would lose 30 per cent of the ridership. So how do we actually get it into the core, get people to where they want to be, but do it responsibly and make sure that we’re making the right decisions.”

Thompson also revealed some good news in terms of funding and timing.

In the good news, he said the provincial government has officially committed to funding their entire portion of the $4.5 billion project — just on a slightly different timeline than originally planned. That funding came into question after the Alberta budget committed only $75 million over the next four years.

Also, during the post-meeting interviews with reporters, Thompson indicated the timeframe to start construction was TBA — instead of the earlier plan to begin it in 2021. But he later clarified that the city does intend to begin construction in 2021, even with these slight delays.

Delaying these decisions did cause some frustration in a brief public hearing.

RELATED: New committee created as council seeks solution to downtown Green Line route

“Kicking the can down the road serves nobody,” said Jeff Binks with LRT on the Green.

“Hundreds of thousands of Calgarians need this project, have been waiting for this project and need a decision. Let’s get building. Let’s move forward.”

There will be some more public engagement after the January meeting, with Carra remarking that this may help with transparency on the project.

Councillor Jeff Davison, who also helped lead what some have deemed a rushed decision on the event centre deal, said while some Calgarians may be “grumpy” about this delay, he feels waiting to make a sound financial decision is wise.

Councillor Evan Woolley added that mistakes were made on the west leg of the LRT, and he definitely doesn’t want to make the same mistakes.

“Ridership mattered on west LRT and continues to matter. So, we really, really need to be thoughtful about hitting the vision of what we were trying to do.”

But while some Calgarians may have expected a more clear vision on the Green Line before Christmas, ultimately the waiting will have to continue.

“Christmas is coming,” said Keating. “So is the Green Line. The question is when.”