On December 3, 2016 the Green Line LRT took another important leap forward. The Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta announced more than $250 million in new funding for the Green Line LRT. While this funding does not provide us with enough capital to begin constructing the Green Line, it allows our team to continue necessary pre-construction work that is critical to the continuation of the project.
The cash flow situation for the Green Line was entering a period of uncertainty prior to this announcement. The City has dedicated $52 million over the next 30 years to the project for a total contribution of $1.56 billion. While this will satisfy our contribution to the project in the long run, to date we have only released a small amount of those funds to the project. The federal government has also pledged that they will contribute $1.53 billion to the Green Line.
The City has been continuing with critical components of Green Line pre-construction. These activities include pre-design, land acquisition, utility relocation and interim transit upgrades. This injection of $250 million to the Green Line allows our team to continue this important work and also provides us with a bit of a bridge to an anticipated full funding commitment from the provincial government.
Here is the breakdown of the funding announcement:
These charts outline many of the broad project areas that this funding will cover. More specifically, the funds will go towards preparing land for construction, including earth works, environmental remediation, utility work and bus improvements along the future Green Line route to build ridership for the future LRT.
I am very excited by the funding announcement over the weekend. The commitment of funding is terrific, but the message that we are being sent by the provincial government is even more encouraging. I was fortunate enough to attend the funding announcement and I was able to hear senior members of the provincial government speak glowingly about the Green Line. Transportation Minister Brian Mason pointed to important new growth areas like Quarry Park and made the point that these areas need public transit investments in order to reach their full potential. Finance Minister Joe Ceci referred to this announcement as a “huge step forward” and commented about how excited he is going to be to board the Green Line at the Inglewood/Ramsay station to travel all over the city.
We still face some challenges to keep on track with our originally proposed timelines on the Green Line. At the federal funding announcement back in the summer of 2015 it was stated that construction could start in 2017 with a completion date of 2024. A few factors have pushed these timelines back a few years, and with the lack of clarity on timing for the full provincial funding commitment we run the risk of further delays. Optimistic projections now suggest that construction could start in late 2018/early 2019 with completion of a phase in 2026.
One of the key advantages of moving forward with Green Line at this time is the ability to provide much needed economic stimulus during these difficult times. The Green Line will create a tremendous number of jobs during the construction phase. The high availability of skilled labour is also contributing to lower costs and more competitive contracts for these types of projects. By capitalising on these factors we can lower the total price tag of the Green Line. I worry that if we continue to extend the timeline we run the risk of missing this window of opportunity.
The recent funding announcement is a positive message from Edmonton regarding their future funding intentions for the Green Line. I fail to see how this government would give us a few hundred million dollars for a project without eventually coming forward with the rest of the funding support we require. It is my continued hope that the province announces the rest of the funding package soon and that the funds are amortized over as short a period of time as possible. This would allow construction to start much sooner and help us avoid costly financing charges.
We are going to continue our conversations with the province in hopes we can secure their full funding commitment early in the New Year. The most exciting part for Calgarians? The Green Line LRT is no longer a question of “if” it is a matter of “when”.
Stay tuned for the completion of some pre-construction transit improvements in southeast Calgary. By the end of this month residents will be able to enjoy the first in a series of improvements that will lay the groundwork for the future LRT.
You can stay up to date on the Green Line by visiting calgary.ca/GreenLine