Alberta government to re-evaluate SE Calgary interchange after committing no funding
Coun. Shane Keating disappointed with decision, say interchange needed to develop community
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Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Brian Mason says the government will take another look at a proposed $50-million SE Calgary interchange, after it initially said it wouldn’t fund the critical project that unlocks $465 million-worth of investment.
On Monday, Metro obtained an internal city memo that said the province told the city the 212 avenue and Deerfoot Trail interchange, located in Seton, isn’t a high priority at this time and it couldn’t commit to funding now or in the future.
The no-commitment comment irked Coun. Shane Keating because the former Progressive Conservative government says it pledged funding in its 2014-15 capital plan.
“I’m flabbergasted by this decision. Very little of it can be developed until we get the transportation needs,” Keating said, noting the area is home to the South Health Campus and a fire station.
“The 212 interchange was key to seeing that whole area develop, and the city has tons of infrastructure money put into the area.”
After the government shot down the city’s initial proposal, the city asked the province if it would entertain an agreement where the city would pay for the provincial project as long as it’s repaid by the government by 2024.
Initially, it appeared the government wasn’t a fan of the repayment idea, according to Keating, as the memo gave no clear indication the province would repay the city.
“I would say this project is no longer a candidate for immediate advancement in 2016,” said the memo. “This is obviously a disappointment for both the city and Brookfield.”
Brookfield Residential is a home development company.
To further develop Seton, Keating said the building plan would see Brookfield and the city together front a no-strings-attached $20 million, and the city would pay for the other $30 million as long as it knows when it will be repaid by the province.
“The province didn’t have to put a dime in today,” Keating said. “All they’d have to do is tell the city when they’d get paid back on the $30 million.”
After learning the details of the new proposal, Mason said he intends to meet with both parties about the proposal.
But he said the government’s decision of not paying for 60 per cent of the project may remain the same.
“The financial position is such that some of these projects will have to be deferred,” he said.
And although the Seton overpass wasn’t part of the government’s initial plans, Mason noted the province has committed to “higher priority” plans in Calgary, like the SW Ring Road, the new Cancer Centre and the Springbank flood mitigation projects.
“Those are three, very large and expensive capital projects,” he said. “We also have requests to consider matching federal funding for the Green Line LRTS project, and that’s all in Calgary, and then there’s the rest of the province that has badly needed infrastructure projects.”
But during the PCs reign, the former government said they had capital funding allocated for the project as the overpass would be under government jurisdiction because Deerfoot Trail is a provincial road.
Rick Fraser, PC MLA for the riding of Calgary South East, said funding the project makes sense as it’d create jobs during the economic slump.
He said the halting the overpass essentially land-locks 28,000 jobs and $465 million in investment.
"It's shovel-ready, so why not now?" he said. "It's the fastest growing area in the city, and I'm not sure why the province would turn down this cost-share opportunity. I think it's more political than anything.”
Keating said the repercussions of not building the project will be huge.
“It’s critical,” he said. “They can’t get housing until 212 is in. All of that stuff (infrastructure) is sitting there and we can’t supplement with any tax base because, without the intersection, we can’t develop it.”
Brookfield Residential, which is behind a mixed-use development for Seton, declined to comment.