News / Calgary

$2B tunnel under Calgary Bow River, downtown approved for Green Line

The pricey infrastructure piece will bring the Green Line underground through Calgary's core, in principle, if funds come through from the province

Pictured is a rendering example of what an underground tunnel station might look for Calgary's Green Line project.

Courtesy/ City of Calgary

Pictured is a rendering example of what an underground tunnel station might look for Calgary's Green Line project.

Calgary’s Green Line, in principle, will go under the Bow River.

It’s this city council’s most important, expensive infrastructure decision this term, and despite trepidation and fears the city’s funds for the project might run dry, or fall through, council is moving forward.

The $1.95 billion will bring the line beneath the downtown, under the Bow River, and under Centre Street to 16 Avenue.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Tuesday’s decision is really important, and he thanked council for their deep and engaging debate. He said the difference between options A and B was $400 million.

“That would be the second or third largest public works project we’ve ever done,” said Nenshi. “We’re trying to balance off what’s the best thing, what’s the right thing and what we can afford.”

This map shows a rough outline of the Green Line’s proposed route through the downtown. One option is to have most of what’s pictured underground, while another option would have the line be above ground south of the CP Rail tracks.

Google Maps/ City of Calgary

This map shows a rough outline of the Green Line’s proposed route through the downtown. One option is to have most of what’s pictured underground, while another option would have the line be above ground south of the CP Rail tracks.

He said council’s debate of doing it right, or doing it within their means was valid. The Green Line has been dubbed a city-shaping project.

“It’s absolutely historic, said Coun. Shane Keating. "We started out with a number of milestones, this is just another one on the road, but it’s getting close to the last few on the road.”

Keating added it’s clear there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – even through the hours of debate. He said Tuesday’s decision sets the stage and gives other orders of government, as well as the city, the bones of what the project will include.

“This is one of the few times where the technical review, and stakeholder review came in alignment and said this is the best option,” said Keating.

Because all of the funding for the Green Line is not yet in place, there’s concern it may have to be a staged project.

“We always had the view this would be staged, where it starts and where it ends is going to be an absolute, ultimate concern,” said Keating. “We have to incorporate the core and the outlying areas, without both you don’t have a project.”

Nenshi said he’s confident the provincial government will come to the table with a funding promise for the Green Line. He’s advocating for a “global budget” because he doesn’t believe $4.5 billion cost estimate will cover the project, and the city may need to advocate for more cash and make the project more flexible.

“Calgary is one of the economic engines of our country and our transportation network is a key part of that success,” said Jeff Binks, president of the LRT on the Green Foundation in a prepared release. “Today council demonstrated their priority is to design the Green Line so that one of North America’s most successful LRT networks is built to support a Calgary of two million people.”

With files from Brodie Thomas.

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