A city committee tasked with finding options to see Calgary’s LRT expansion through is looking at the possibility of splitting the tracks into two legs, which would join with existing tracks in the downtown core.
Councillors on the Green Line committee had their first meeting on Friday and despite some squabbilng, came up with one option that two councillors believe could be a solution to new funding restrictions.
In the 2019 UCP budget, the provincial commitment toward the LRT mega-project was restructured, meaning a significant shortfall when it comes to money the city was depending on to complete it.
Now, the committee is looking at splitting the already-shortened Green Line into two separate legs — a north and south section — which would connect with existing tracks the Blue and Red lines travel on through the core.
That, the committee said, would avoid the previously-proposed and costly idea of tunnelling the new train tracks underground through the downtown, saving the city a lot of money.
“We have to be mindful of cost and right now. I feel like the big cost implication in front of us is how would we get through the downtown core?” Councillor Jeff Davison said.
“And given that we already have two intersecting trains in the downtown core, is it not the best use of funds to try and create a north and south leg, and bringing them into the downtown?”
Councillor Shane Keating also agreed that splitting the line could solve the money component of the project, but acknowledged it could impact ridership.
“Splitting the line might be the best thing we can do, but if we lose 30,000 riders, that’s not the best thing,” Keating said.
“But if we save $500 million, that might be the best thing to do. But we need the reports in December and January to make that decision.”
Splitting the Green Line into segments wouldn’t be a first for Calgary LRT construction.
“When you look at how projects are staged, the existing Red and Blue lines were built in segments over many decades,” city transportation manager Michael Thompson said.
“We expect that the Green Line will be built in segments over a period of time.”
Davison said there’s still a lot of speculation looming around the project, adding there’s still a lot of work to do to find a solution.
The committee has until January to come up with proposals to bring to council, then councillors will vote on a finalized plan for the future of the Green Line.