Amid a back and forth with the province over the Green Line LRT project, Calgary officials are set to formally make a request to the Government of Alberta for confidential access to a consultant report into the project, with the goal of better understanding the province’s concerns with the development.
Following a lengthy discussion behind closed doors on Friday, the city’s Green Line committee passed a notice of motion to ask the province to confidentially share the report with the chair of the Green Line board, Don Fairbairn.
“If the issue is that there is no political desire to share a report because it’s confidential in nature, I don’t need to see it, but my experts need to see it,” Green Line Committee vice-chair Jyoti Gondek said Friday. “So we’ll be making that request to see if Mr. Fairbairn can get access to it.”
The $5.5 billion project underwent a review by the provincial government, which was completed in October.
According to a letter sent in October to Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi from Transportation Minister Ric McIver, the review outlined a number of “concerns related to risk and certainty with the project as it is currently designed, including estimated costs, contingencies, governance structure and the overall procurement strategy.”
While the province and the city have met regularly since the completion of the review, Nenshi said the Green Line project team has not yet seen the consultant’s report with fine details of the province’s concerns with the project.
“All of these allegations that (the province) have put out have no basis in fact,” Nenshi said Friday. “They have yet to share any paper on where they’re getting this from or why they feel that way.”
However, in an email to Global News, transportation ministry press secretary Mckenzie Kibler said “serious, expert concerns have been raised whether the city’s total planned budget for the Green Line will fall far short of actually completing the project.”
According to Kibler, the province remains supportive of the Green Line, but “more due diligence is required to deliver a functional transit project.”
“Releasing the report will not change the need for further answers for taxpayers. We look forward to working with city officials to clarify outstanding questions, as we have been doing since October,” Kibler said.
On Friday, the Green Line Committee said it received correspondence from the province regarding concerns with the project. However, councillors told Global News the contents of that correspondence cannot be discussed publicly because it was presented to them in a closed session.
“I’d really prefer to park the rhetoric right now and get down to what the issues are,” Gondek said. “Now that there’s some information in play, I think our team can better address those concerns.”
The first phase of the project would see the line run from Sheperd to Ramsay. The second phase includes a tunnel under the Beltline and downtown core, while the third phase has the line crossing the Bow River and running up Centre Street N., to 16 Avenue N.
The project in its entirety would see the LRT line extended from 160 Avenue N., to Seton, but those additional sections have not yet been funded. The city has already procured $500 million worth of land for the project.
The first phase was set to begin construction in July 2021, but there are concerns from proponents of the Green Line that ongoing issues between the province and the city could delay that start date.
Last week, the city announced to stakeholders it was pausing the process to find a developer to build the first phase of the project to give officials more time to address the province’s concerns.
The project is expected to inject nearly $4.5 billion into the provincial economy and create 20,000 jobs.
–With files from Global News’ Adam Toy.