Green Line Funding – Nearly There!

When I ran to represent Ward 12 in 2013, I pointed to one goal in particular that I wanted to deliver if I was elected:

Get the funding in place for the Green Line by 2017.

I pointed to the critical need for better investments in transportation, but I also identified that simply raising property taxes for these kinds of projects was becoming less and less practical.

Today, Calgary City Council made an important decision that brings us one step closer to the goal of delivering the Green Line. I want to take a moment to explain what this funding commitment is, and what this funding commitment is not.

52-30A historic vote for the City of Calgary

What it is:

  • This decision is the most fiscally responsible way to fund this project. It is not the job of your government to say no to every single spending opportunity that comes forward. It is up to your elected officials to find projects that give value for money. City Council has agreed to fund the Green Line without a new tax or an increase in taxes on Calgarians. Council has extended an existing program that was already in place.
  • This is a strong message about how important this project is. If we as a City want world class public transit, we must be prepared to pay for it. We cannot be supportive of a project without being supportive of finding ways to fund it. Council deliberated over a number of options to fund this project, and extending the $52M to 30 years was agreed to be the best option.
  • This is the most opportune time to decide funding on this project. With interest rates historically low and the availability of construction labour high, we have a unique cost savings opportunity. We may be faced with some financing challenges, but I believe the savings in the long run will make it worthwhile.
  • This commitment is a clear message to the Provincial Government that this project needs their support. This project makes sense in so many aspects: economic stimulus (projected to create 23,000 construction jobs), green house gas reduction (projected to take 35,000 cars off the road every single day) and reduction of traffic congestion (projected to reduce city wide congestion by 10-15%). Council’s first dedication of funding to the Green Line helped attract the Federal Government’s funding commitment. I am hopeful that by tripling our funding commitment to this project, the Provincial Government comes on board soon.

What it is NOT:

  • This is not a blank cheque. There have continually been comments about the costs of the West LRT and how we should anticipate that the Green Line will go 50-100% over budget. Council has given administration a very concrete funding picture, and we have asked them to find a way to pull this project off within the confines of that funding.
  • This is not funding for an imaginary project. Even to this day I still hear people question whether this project will be going forward or not. The ground work has been established and construction could begin as early as 2017. I believe that Calgarians could be riding a stage of the Green Line by as early as 2021.
  • This is not the end of the tracks for the Green Line. We still need buy in from the Provincial Government, and the public consultation and pre-planning in downtown and along Centre Street will need to continue. The southeast has the advantage of being slightly further ahead in the process, but the same due diligence and attention to detail will be experienced for the rest of the line. We have cleared some very important hurdles, but we are not at the finish line yet.1-fund

 

Today we are two-thirds of the way to having this project fully funded, and Calgarians have big reasons to celebrate. Residents in southeast and north central Calgary can take comfort that this project will be completed within the next decade, and not in the next thirty years. It is my hope that by 2017 we not only have the funding in place, but that we also have started construction on this critical piece of infrastructure.