Talking Green Line with the Construction Industry

Yesterday morning, along with General Manager of Transportation Michael Thompson, I had the opportunity to talk Green Line with many members of Calgary’s construction and contracting community. A few people even ventured in from out of town. The event was put together by Global Public Affairs and they asked a number of questions to Mr. Thompson and I.

The event provided an opportunity to update the community and provide local construction firms with an idea of how they may be able to participate in the Green Line construction. While the main contract, which involves the construction of a 4 km long tunnel, is likely to require expertise from an international talent pool (though local contractors are absolutely not excluded from bidding), there are still a number of enabling works going out to market for tender. The enabling projects when all said and done will total $500 million, providing plenty of opportunities for local contractors to contribute to the Green Line’s construction.

In addition, the maintenance facility will be tendered separate from the main contract which will be a significant piece of infrastructure that will include 17km of track on a 50 acre site. We are also still in the process of determining if the landscaping portion will be separated from the main contract as a result of my push for Green Line gardens.

When asked about the main contract, Mr. Thompson indicated that it would be out toward the end of Q2. He noted that cost is the most significant motivator in selecting the winning bid for the contract as we are committed to getting this project done within its budget, but he also noted that community integration and an experienced team in delivering a complex project will be important components. He said the ideal team will have worked with brownfield construction before and that the City is looking for good partners as it values relationships. We want to ensure that whoever builds the Green Line is committed to building sound, quality infrastructure that will serve generations to come.

There has been some talk about the Green Line being behind schedule, but Mr. Thompson talked about how we have simply slowed down a little from where we were when the consultation took place to ensure that we get this project right. He noted that given the funding available, we really have to nail this project as there is no room to go over budget. So the slow down is to help ensure we get the contract right, we are able to attract the right qualifications and proposals, and deliver this project on time and on budget.

I was asked what risks there may be with the current provincial election and upcoming federal election. To that, realistically I say there are none. The provincial government that called the election signed the existing contract and the leader of the official opposition heading into the election had been part of the federal government that had initially pledged the federal dollars for the Green Line. Similarly, it was a Conservative federal government that had initially promised funding for the line and the current Liberal government that had made it official. There is broad support for the Green Line across party lines. Finally, the contracts are signed.

We also talked about mitigating disruptions once the construction starts. Enabling projects are underway that will help simplify the work once the shovels are in the ground for the main contract, helping to minimize disruptions. The Green Line team is also starting the conversation with Calgarians again to ensure they are aware of the construction that is coming. The City also has a Taking Care of Business Program that will help sustain businesses impacted by the construction of the Green Line and help them to thrive once construction is complete.

When asked about future stages of the Green Line, Mr. Thompson noted that a large number of properties still need to be acquired north of 16th Ave, which complicates future extensions. Otherwise, the next phase is easy! We’re getting the hard part with the tunnel completed in the first stage which will limit construction delays once additional phases are added.

Finally, Mr. Thompson and I closed on our thoughts about the Green Line. Both of us agree that we are involved in something spectacular. We are building something that will shape the city for generations to come and will be a project that defines Calgary. For me, when I first ran, I wanted two things – recreation facilities and transit for the deep south east. We’ve solved the recreation facilities issue and we are well on our way to solving the transit issue. In 2010, I represented 63,000 people. By 2013, that was up to 104,000 and the area continues to grow, despite being one of, if not the most, transit starved areas of the city. This will change the face of Ward 12 and add a significant number of new transit users. In the north central, it will serve one of the highest ridership parts of the city with better transit, reducing our reliance on buses and be able to direct those resources to continue to improve our transit system. Mr. Thompson noted that Deerfoot Trail moves about 120,000 people a day out of the south while the existing redline does about the same in a footprint less than half the size of that road. WE are excited to shape this city and build such a spectacular project.

As always, I welcome your thoughtful comments and concerns. You can share them with me here.