Stage 1 a go: Calgary councillors make unexpected decision on Green Line
Councillors figured the sooner they approve the massive infrastructure project the better for Calgary's funding opportunities
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How long will the Green Line be? After a weekend of shock and public disbelief one councillor implored some of his residents to keep it in perspective.
And his colleagues agreed.
On Thursday, Metro broke a story that took Coun. Sean Chu and his residents in the city’s north by surprise. Instead of what many residents expected, the city was recommending to build the first stage of the Green Line between Shepard and 16 Avenue North for $4.5 billion – nearly 20 kilometres short of the 40 kilometre line the city had envisioned for $4.6 billion.
Coun. Shanke Keating wrote a laundry list of recommendations on the fly for councillors to consider. His ask of colleagues included proceeding with the first stage subject to council’s final approval, securing guaranteed funding from the province and federal government and have the mayor work on a plan to fund the rest of the line.
“This project has to start somewhere, that means we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions along the way,” said Keating in the meeting. Later, he told reporters he felt fantastic that council decided on the best option.
“If we didn’t do it now, it would be vastly more expensive in the future,” Keating said.
The line is ultimately envisioned to stretch between Seton in the south and Keystone in the north. But according to transportation boss Mac Logan, that was never sold as an all-in-one-shot process.
He came to the council strategic meeting on Monday armed with documents beginning in 2015 that show administration’s work, which pointed out it would need to be staged.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it’s possible future councillors and administrations will find the cash to build an extension in the north faster than residents expect it.
“We would not have seen this line getting to Highland Park or getting to North Pointe much before 2028 or 2029,” said Nenshi. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to secure the funding to just keep building after 2026, so they’ll actually get the line roughly at the same time they were going to get it anyway.”
He said in the southeast it’s a different story, he’s hoping the city will save some cash on the first stage construction and get improvements built in as soon as possible.
Administration picked the “stage one” approach to the Green Line because of their planned storage and maintenance facility in Shepard, and on Thursday, the mayor pointed out that the line was coming up short in the first phase because of the downtown’s tunnelling.
Numbers on the debt servicing are higher than previously publicized by the city, and Nenshi said that’s a concern. But he hopes with a commitment from the province the city can save on debt servicing, depending on what kind of deal is struck. It’s expected within the next couple of days he will send an official letter to the province with council’s recommendation.