Calgary city council’s Green Line committee has voted to approve recommendations made by the city’s administration on the alignment for Stage 1 of the Green Line LRT project.
Tuesday’s decision comes after a two-day meeting where dozens of members of the public made presentations both in favour of and against the project.
The committee is recommending an alignment that would have the train run from Shepard in the southeast to 16 Avenue North. There will be a bridge to go over the Bow River to get to Centre Street North. A station has been added at 9 Avenue North, as well as the option for a portal into a new development in Eau Claire.
The plan is also to use 11 Avenue in the Beltline near the new event centre. As part of the proposal, there will be an enhanced Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system developed for north-central Calgary.
The vote was eight to five in favour, with some of those opposed saying it was because of the economic impact of COVID-19.
“We don’t know how it’s going to change the cycle of passengers on transit, therefore it’s going to be an unknown in the next five to 10 years,” said Coun. Joe Magliocca, who has been opposed to the project since 2013.
“At this point in time, I will not put tax dollars in jeopardy.”
While approved at committee, changes can still be made at a meeting of the full city council on June 15.
Coun. Ward Sutherland is part of a group of councillors wanting the project split up into smaller segments.
“Dividing it up is really more de-risking it and it assures lowering the financial risk because it is so complicated,” he said.
Sutherland also said he’s concerned about the situation surrounding COVID-19, which has seen transit ridership dramatically drop.
“I don’t think anybody can really tell us how much the change is going to affect transit,” he said. “What happens if it takes five years to get back to total usage again? How does that impact our finances?”
Coun. Shane Keating said COVID-19 shouldn’t bring city planning and building to a stop.
“To follow the discussion we heard, we should cancel the BMO expansion, because we don’t know if you can have large conventions in the future, he said. “We should cancel the Event Centre because we don’t know if you’re going to have large games in the future.
“It just doesn’t make sense for us to pick and choose where we should be going with our situation now.”
There were also emotional pleas for council to move forward with the Green Line.
“Transit is the great equalizer in the city, we’re not building this transit system for the wealthiest, we’re building it for the poorest people in our city,” said Coun. Evan Woolley.
“Imagine if we lose 20,000 riders because we wanted to cheap out and because we got scared because of the incredible complexity of this project.”
Calgary city administration said the current alignment to cross the river and go to 16 Avenue N. will make it easier and less expensive in the future to go further north when funding becomes available.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Green Line LRT project.