Nenshi calls Farkas' plea to pause SW BRT project a 'terrible idea'
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is also assisting with the motion that would stop part of the project from going to tender
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Just like traffic in the city's southwest, two councillors want to slow the impending BRT project green-lighted by last council to a crawl with a new notice of motion.
But Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters Tuesday this attempt to stall or freeze the project is a motion to stop it entirely.
In a release issued by Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas on Tuesday and Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, they outlined their intention to stop the SW BRT project from going to tender for the second phase of the plan.
"I support thoughtfully planned and efficient transit for our city. It has to give the best service to users and provide value for money to taxpayers,” said Farkas.
“The SWBRT project in its current form does neither.”
Several transit and student advocates have spoken about the need for more reliable and quick bus service in the area, while the grassroots Ready to Engage group questioned city administration on the safety of the project during construction, as well as the impact on their community.
Eventually, these conflicting viewpoints came to a boiling point in February 2016 after the mayor tabled allegations of individuals threatening city staffers at public meetings.
In 2010, the project was pegged at $40 million, and in 2016 the costs ballooned to between $57 and $66 million – although these costs were still within the overall pooled BRT budgets.
At the time, this set off alarms for councillors who demanded administration find out why the original estimate was off.
The second phase would see the rapid bus route go from south of Glenmore Trail to Woodbine with dedicated bus lanes to take the transit vehicle out of traffic. Then, and most controversially, an underground bus tunnel at 90 Avenue and 14 Street SW would take the transit bus to a terminus in Woodbine.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he encouraged administration to hold off on awarding tenders that are ready and waiting in the wings, but he's not on board with this idea.
"(Coun. Farkas) did campaign on this and he deserves the opportunity to try and make the case to council," said Nenshi. "It's a terrible idea, and I will fight it hard."
Nenshi said the city has to stop making transit decisions based on politics. He said the cost-benefit analysis has been done and the public's position on the need for a rapid transit connection in the southwest hasn't changed.
“I campaigned on this issue. For the sake of transparency and accountability to my constituents, I would like to know what the cost-benefit is for this project and what each component of the project will cost, where that money will be coming from and what the operating costs will be,” said Farkas. “Pausing this segment will have no impact on the rest of the BRT network.”
The mayor told reporters that if work on the southwest BRT is halted, it will affect the southeast crosstown route that relies on the right of way created by the SWBRT.
Originally, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart voted for the bus project but changed her mind after consulting with the area residents.
For council to change the project there would need to be 10 votes for the notice of motion to pass because the construction timeline was previously approved.