Not starting Calgary’s Green Line construction in 2021 would be a ‘failure’: Keating

Click to play video: '‘I don’t think due diligence means what you think it means’: Nenshi responds to province on Green Line' ‘I don’t think due diligence means what you think it means’: Nenshi responds to province on Green Line
Mayor Naheed Nenshi answered a question about the Green Line LRT after the province called it “a train line to nowhere.” – Dec 18, 2020

A Calgary councillor is concerned that further delays in constructing the Green Line LRT could result in failures.

“I’m not sure that we’re going to see some holes in the ground in 2021 and I think that’s a failure in itself,” Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating said.

“But if we can’t even get a contract signed on some portion of the Green Line in 2021, that’s a massive failure.”

In December 2020, the City of Calgary agreed to a pause in procurement to allow the Alberta government to conduct “due diligence” on the 46-kilometre, $4.9-billion LRT project that would run from the north to the southeast, creating 20,000 jobs.

When council voted 14-1 to proceed with the project in July 2020, the following year was projected as the start of construction.

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Read more: $14.9B promised to Canadian cities for ‘major public transit projects’

In a post on his website, Keating openly asks: “Where do we currently stand? What progress have we gained?

“How is the Green Line LRT not a kick-start project for Alberta’s economic (recovery)?”

Keating said there are currently two requests for proposal (RFP) out for private industry to bid on — one for the light-rail vehicles that will travel the tracks, and another to build the first segment of track in Phase 1 between the Ramsay and Inglewood neighbourhoods.

The Ward 12 councillor and longtime Green Line advocate said further delays in approval from the province send a negative signal to prospective project bidders.

“If there’s any evidence that the project won’t go ahead, then why would a company sit back and spend, in some cases, a few million dollars to try and bid on something that there’s no guarantee of going ahead?” he said.

“So the first thing we have to do is get away all uncertainty.”

Read more: City of Calgary looking at $62M shortfall in 2021 due to COVID-19

In a statement to Global News, Ric McIver — who serves as both minister of transportation and minister of municipal affairs — said Alberta Transportation is working with the city “to ensure the Green Line is delivered in the best interest of those who need it, as well as the taxpayers who fund it.

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“As I told to Councillor Keating on the phone last month, my intention is to let the technical people with both the city and the province work collaboratively toward a mutually acceptable solution,” the statement read.

Keating said if the provincial process wraps up soon, the RFP process would have to “ramp back up” and contracts could be signed in the fall.

“November is the absolute latest, I would say, to even sign a contract,” the Ward 12 councillor said.

“And I don’t know if you can sign a contract in November and have shovels in the ground within a month in the middle of December or late December. That doesn’t seem viable.”

On his website, Keating proposed a couple of solutions to address concerns the province expressed in its communications about the city’s largest infrastructure project.

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“You can de-risk a large project by making it into smaller ones and allowing more than one proponent,” Keating told Global News. “All we have to do then is make sure that connectivity is there, and I’m quite sure that we have brilliant enough minds to make sure that we can do that.”

Read more: Calgary to request confidential access to provincial report into Green Line LRT

Another thing Keating proposes is to make an addendum to the RFP to extend the first segment to the 4 Street S.E. station, addressing comments from McIver’s press secretary that currently the city has “a plan for a train line to nowhere” and is not connecting with the downtown.

The federal government and the city have committed funds for the project, and province is still in for its portion.

“Budget 2021 re-iterates our $1.53-billion commitment to the Green Line,” McIver said in a statement.

Read more: Procurement for Calgary’s Green Line LRT project paused amid review

The province confirmed that Calgary is due to receive $308 million in the 2021-22 budget year, $25 million of which would come from the province. Provincial funding was expected to ramp up to $291 million in 2023-24, as part of $559 million the city would get for the Green Line.

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With Calgary expected to continue to grow — even during the pandemic — Keating said the Green Line LRT can help focus that growth.

“If we can develop our city in such a way that the Green Line spurs dense population and growth along the stations and allows the rest of the city to (provide for) that other need of single-family houses… that’s exactly the way we have to develop in the future,” Keating said.

“And that’s what this allows.”

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