It’s been referred to by multiple levels of government as the most ambitious transit infrastructure project in Calgary’s history.
With shovels expected to be in the ground by next year, the Green Line LRT project has been earmarked as one of the top election priorities for the City of Calgary.
At a cost of $4.65 billion, the original plan for the project would see an LRT line run from Seton in the city’s southeast to North Pointe in the northeast — but that plan has since been scaled back for the same cost.
Phase 1 of the project was approved in 2017 and would span 11 stations between 16 Avenue N. in Crescent Heights toward Shepard — roughly half the length of the entire proposed line.
“Even though it’s only half the length, it’s probably three-quarters or more of the actual complexity and cost of the Green Line,” said Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating on Tuesday.
Phase 1 includes sections that are underground and a tunnel under the Bow River into downtown. Keating said after consultations with businesses, they decided that although the at-grade route would be cheaper, underground sections would be more beneficial.
“We’ve looked a number of different things,” Keating said. “But we did the most difficult and the most expensive aspect of the Green Line first.”
All three levels of government have committed funding for the project.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the first stage of the project will create 20,000 direct and indirect jobs — and it will be used by 60,000 riders, according to Notley — when it is scheduled to open in 2026.
According to the province, its share of the cost is being funded by the carbon tax.
“We want to see, at the end of the day, the full Green Line constructed,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Tuesday. “What we need to do right now is work with all stakeholders including the city, which has made a commitment to pursue the Green Line on the basis of their current plans. But I think we all know that it needs to be completely constructed in order to service those communities.”
There has been contention from UCP Leader Jason Kenney when it comes to the shortened Phase 1 route. Kenney supports the original plan and believes the project could be funded without the carbon tax — something he said his party would repeal if elected.
“We’re going to be asking questions about why we’re paying for half as much service on the smaller Green Line,” Kenney said. “So we are committed to an LRT Green Line expansion but our preference is the full Green Line agreed to by the city.”
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel didn’t go into detail about his party’s plans for the project if he becomes premier but still threw his support behind the line’s completion.
“We think it’s important and Calgarians really value the Green Line,” he said. “It needs to be built and we’ll partner with the City of Calgary to find ways to do it.”
Alberta Liberal Party Leader David Khan also vowed to complete the project.
“We want to increase funding for mass transit. Public transit is the backbone of our society and the backbone of a growing economy,” Khan said. “The people in the north and south of Calgary have been waiting decades for proper public transit and a CTrain line, and we’ve got to get moving on those.”
The shorter first phase of the project has north Calgary residents concerned they will be left out.
An extension north from 16 Avenue to North Pointe could cost more than $2 billion while further extensions in the southeast would be less expensive but ultimately have fewer riders.
Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek is concerned that ridership is not the main criteria when Green Line extensions are contemplated.
“I would advocate to get anything I need in my ward to meet your criteria,” Gondek said at a transportation committee in March. “That’s what we’re falling into now. This process will necessarily make ward compete against ward. I’m very worried about that.”
According to Keating, his focus this election is on future Green Line expansion commitments.
The NDP pledged $200 million per year for transit projects in 2027, the year after Phase 1 of the Green Line is expected to be complete.
“If we were able to capitalize on that $200 million a year, say for 10 years, that’s $2 billion,” Keating said. “We can leverage that with the other political parties and the Green Line is finished.”
Keating remains confident that the parties will honour the current agreement if elected, but it’s unclear what each party believes should happen for Phase 2.
“All we’re asking is, don’t change anything, but there was this commitment, can you honour that commitment?” he said.
Procurements are already underway for the Green Line LRT project.
– With a file from Global News’ Kaylen Small