Down the Tracks: LRT on the Green Line

On Wednesday at the Transportation and Transit Committee (T&T) we heard a lot of discussion on our options to pay for Calgary’s many infrastructure priorities.  A report to the committee outlined new taxation models and other methods to secure funding for the Green Line and many other important projects.  It is very clear that we must find a way to pay for these projects, but Council must consider all options on the table.

It is my belief that the Green Line is the most important infrastructure project for the City of Calgary right now.  This is a project that is long overdue that will service 300,000 Calgarians in some of the fastest growing areas in the city.  The Green Line will add 40km to the existing LRT network in Calgary; this would nearly double the existing 52km we currently have.  Simply put, this project is massive.

Early projections suggest that having a full LRT line on the Green Line could cost upwards of $5 billion.  To date the City has made a commitment of $520 million over the next 10 years; this is a very good start.  We must leverage this funding and push the other orders of government for additional funding to match the commitment made by the City of Calgary.

The other orders of government have mechanisms to assist municipalities with their transit infrastructure needs.  The Federal government recently announced a new transit fund, and the Province has a variety of programs.  These programs could go a long way to getting us straight to LRT on the Green Line.

There is a very clear role for Calgarians to play with their elected representatives at all orders of government.  Many Calgarians have new Members of the Legislative Assembly that will represent their communities.  We are moving towards a Federal election and your candidates for Member of Parliament will be looking for feedback on how they can better serve you interests.  These individuals need to hear from you and it needs to be made clear that a project like the Green Line can only be completed with commitments from both the Provincial and Federal governments.

I made it clear earlier this week that entertaining the idea of new taxes without consultation from Calgarians was not an option in my mind.  At T&T Jeff Binks from LRT on the Green suggested that a compromise that would increase the City’s contribution while avoiding any new taxes.  Mr. Binks suggested that we extend the $52 million program over 30 years instead of the 10 that is currently mandated.  This extension would give the City a commitment of $1.56 billion; nearly a third of the entire project.  Traditional models for cross government contributions on infrastructure projects see each order of government contributing a third to these kinds of projects.

On Monday I will be introducing an important Notice of Motion.  The motion will ask administration to look into the feasibility of moving the Green Line straight to LRT.  If passed the report will evaluate how the City could pay for the project and also outline how additional funding could be secured.  I believe that we are on the verge of a fantastic opportunity; the time is now to move the Green Line to the next stage.

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The need for this project cannot be ignored.  Nearly a third of Calgarians will be directly impacted by the Green Line, and countless others will be impacted indirectly.  We need a strong commitment from Council that this project is an absolute priority.  The suggestion of new taxation methods is concerning for me, but I do believe a compromise can be reached.  The extension of an existing program would triple the City’s contribution and get us one step closer to bringing the LRT to the Green Line.  I believe that a light at the end of the tunnel is coming soon.