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Some councillors propose delaying Green Line’s Bow River crossing as long public hearing begins

via The Calgary Herald  By Chris Varcoe

A group of councillors is floating the idea of rethinking plans to build the Green Line north of the Bow River as city council heads toward a final decision on the $4.9-billion transit project.

Council’s Green Line committee started a lengthy public hearing Monday, with Calgarians calling in to give input on the LRT extension’s new alignment through the core. The meeting continued into the evening and councillors planned to reconvene Tuesday morning.

Councillors Jeff Davison, Jyoti Gondek, Ward Sutherland and Peter Demong issued a joint statement Monday saying they back a plan for “one good line,” which would mean scrapping plans for a bridge over the Bow River for now.

“With a project the size of the Green Line looming large in front of us during this compounding crisis, we must take stock of our options to move forward pragmatically,” they wrote.

The first stage of the Green Line as it’s currently proposed would run from 16th Avenue N., across the river, through downtown and the Beltline, and south to Shepard. The four councillors say the section from downtown to the south should start construction while the city takes more time to consider how to go north, while investing in a dedicated bus rapid transit (BRT) network along Centre Street N.

Green Line manager Michael Thompson said the city’s current recommendation for the Green Line’s path aims to make sure the train can be extended farther north and south in the future.

“16th Avenue in the north really sets the core of the future Green Line,” he said. “It allows us to do extensions to the north or to the south, smaller dollar extensions.”

Before the Green Line alignment is confirmed, committee must vote this week, and council will vote again on June 15. Councillors can propose changes to the final plan that must also be voted on.

On Monday morning, a group of advocates from the Calgary Alliance for the Common Good gathered outside city hall to show their support for the Green Line.

Some Calgarians who spoke at the public hearing said they worried about the impact of the transit project on Prince’s Island Park and properties near the river, while others urged council not to risk pushing the Green Line even further into the future by reconsidering pieces of the final plan now.

Ahead of Monday’s meeting, Coun. Jeff Davison said in an interview that he supports an alignment that’s more “purposely thoughtful” for the north.

He said the proposal isn’t intended to align with a group of business figures who call themselves an “ad hoc committee” who are advocating for the Green Line to stop downtown. That group also wants to stop plans for the Green Line to tunnel underground.

“I have to make a justifiable call on what we should do for the benefit of all Calgarians, not for people who have an opinion,” Davison said.

“I hope I’m not getting bucketed into that because it is that, one opinion. And that’s great, thank you very much for your contribution.”

Gondek also asked city officials why the Green Line can’t get across the Bow River on the existing Centre Street Bridge instead of building a brand new river crossing.

Thompson said that option has been looked at in the past, but making enough room for two lanes of LRT and two lanes of traffic for LRT on the Centre Street Bridge would mean reconstructing it to make it wider, as well as adding an additional pedestrian bridge next to it.

The provincial and federal governments have promised about $1.5 billion each for the Green Line, and Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that’s “the largest source of dedicated funding we’ve ever had for an individual project.”

Nenshi said putting off crossing the Bow River goes against the strategy for making sure transit continues to get built across the city.

“The philosophy has always been build the expensive part first so that construction never really stops. You continue to build station by station in the north and in the south.”

masmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @meksmith

Article by Lena Hogarth
June 3, 2020

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