Green Line: Shovels in Ground 2021? If not, is this a failure?

So, we’re closing in on the three-month procurement pause, which was announced back in December 2020, to accommodate the Government of Alberta’s request to hold high level discussions on concerns they expressed on the Green Line. With all the setbacks and delays this momentous infrastructure project has seen, I must ask…

How much progress have we really made in bringing the Green Line for Calgarians?

Let’s quickly review: July, 2020, Council voted 14-1 to give approval for Green Line Plan. Two Request for Proposals (RFP’s) were sent out for consideration. One for Light Rail Vehicles (LRV’s) and the one for Green Line’s Stage 1 of Phase 1.

Many of Calgarians, thousands in fact have the same questions that I do. They want to know 1) the current status of the approval process, 2) what’s the delay with approving the RFP’s for LRV’s and Phase 1 Stage 1 construction to begin, and 3) why the Province’s acceptance of anything Green Line related is met with caveat after caveat.

Many concerned Calgarians, including myself would like to know…

Will Green Line construction see shovels in the ground in 2021?

Or, are we still going to be stalled into the year 2022?

It took four months for the Provincial review to be completed, then two months for the Green Line team and the Alberta Government to start talking about it in earnest.

Overall, nine months have passed since Council’s approval. We’ve missed nine months of opportunity for jobs creation and Albertan’s getting back to work after weathering historically low oil prices, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the global economic recession.

So I have to ask: where do we currently stand? What progress have we gained?

It’s as LRT on the Green Foundation stated in their March 2, 2021 press release, “The Clock is Ticking.”

(You can read it here: https://www.lrtonthegreen.ca/march-2-2021-times-ticking-on-green-line-review/)

Last week’s Provincial Budget talks about accelerating infrastructure investment and driving Alberta’s post Covid-19 economic recovery. I think it’s fitting to note that the last time Alberta faced a major recession, we built the Saddledome and LRT.

Government of Alberta’s 2021-22 budget focuses on three themes:

  1. Protecting Lives – through with investments in healthcare
  2. Protecting Livelihoods – by preparing for economic recovery and
  3. Fiscal Accountability – by “maintaining responsible spending”

Yet Provincial changes to funding will invariably impact The City of Calgary shovel ready transit and transportation priorities including:

  • Project specific funding at $485M for the Green Line LRT which remains contingent on the Government of Canada, $460M federal contribution.
(You can find the details here: https://www.alberta.ca/capital-plan.aspx)

Green Line LRT is the largest infrastructure project in Calgary’s history. With $4.9 billion in commitments from the Government of Canada, Government of Alberta and City of Calgary, Green Line will play a key role in providing 20,000 jobs and with expected opening day ridership of 65,000 people.

How is the Green Line LRT not a kick-start project for Alberta’s economic recover?

But many people know already, the Green Line is an economic stimulus that will play a momentous role in Alberta’s recovery.

What many people might not realize is that the Green Line is already in the RFP process, it’s shovel ready, and all that is needed is for bodies to get behind it.   

This should be a slam dunk.

As we have stated many times in the past, Stage 1 of Phase 1 is the simplest section of the Green Line to begin construction.

It’s easy and ready to start.

Ready as in right-this-instant ready.

To start construction on Stage 1 of Phase 1 should be an easy decision, considering it requires a budget far less than half the total Green Line cost, taking us from South Shepard Maintenance Facility all the way to East of Elbow River/ Inglewood.

I understand concerns will arise, but thinking the City is incapable of getting to 7th Ave/ Eau Claire Station, let alone 16th Ave Station with two-thirds of the budget for Phase 1, Stage 2a and 2b is completely ludicrous.

City Administration are perfectly capable of moving forward with such low risk construction.

We have hundreds of consultants and experts in the field that share our well-deserved confidence.    

Not only is this a mis-placed concern on the Alberta Government’s part, it’s now 2021, and to think that 4 years ago we had approval from the Province on the present plan.

Sure, there have been minor changes in decisions to reduce costs and risks, slight adjustments to alignment, but with that said, the plan has barely changed over 4 years.

Four years, and we haven’t moved an inch.

The last time I spoke to the Alberta Government I was told that if I had a solution to “put it in writing and submit it.”

I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. It means, “we’re not interested in what you have to say.”

However, I’m putting it in writing here and now.  

The Alberta Government’s comment of a “train to nowhere,” should be of no concern. This can be easily remedied with the present RFP for Stage 1 of Phase1 by adding an addendum extending it from Elbow River/ Inglewood Station to 4th Street SE Station adjoining with current Stage 1 from Elbow River/ Inglewood Station to the Shepard Maintenance Facility.  

Rendering of a possible Shepard Station that is currently planned to have a maintenance facility immediately north of the station.

This will place the Green Line within steppingstones of the existing Red Line.

Now what we can do is take this increased section from 4th street SE Station to Shepard Maintenance Facility and divide it into manageable portions of approximately $500 million to $600 million contracts.

We divide the remaining Phase 1 into three parcels. The Shepard Maintenance Facility would be one contract, and we could divide the remaining length of line into 2 separate contracts.

This would further allow for “Shovels in the ground 2021,” with a greater amount of flexibility to facilitate local companies who bid on these portions. This means people are working. Let the planners plan, let the builders build.

More jobs, and more Albertans getting back to work.

By allowing the first RFP to commence, we would effectively be providing the much needed kickstart to the economic recovery without jeopardizing the rest of the project, but also simultaneously allow for further review and adjustments to Stage 2a and 2b to be made if needed.

Let’s do what’s right and approve this first RFP while we work on Stage 2a and 2b.

Our Green Line Plan is credible. It always has been. This is evident by all the great work the Green Line Team, City Council and the numerous governing boards such as the Technical Risk Committee and Green Line Board have done

Not having shovels in the ground in 2021 would mean a failure to Alberta’s economic recovery

  • Part of Calgary’s global competitive advantage to attract new businesses and a young talented workforce in our city would be lost
  • 20,000 job critically needed opportunities would be lost
  • Transit service between central and south east community hubs, schools and businesses would be lost
  • Community beautification and connectivity around LRT Stations would be lost
  • The opportunity to care for our most vulnerable populations of children, seniors and people with disabilities who already experience accessibility issues with independent living and transportation to schools, work, medical appointments and social activities would be lost.

It’s now 2021, and to think that four years ago we had approval from the Province on the current plan.

Four years and we haven’t moved an inch.

If shovels aren’t in the ground in 2021, how could we possibly peg this as success?

Could we consider this is a failure to the thousands and thousands of Calgarians that desperately need the Green Line on part of the Provincial Government, the Mayor’s Office, City Council, the Green Line Team, and yes, even a failure on my part?

There is a need for accountability.

There is a need to seize the initiative and build from this economic momentum that the Green Line will create.

So, that begs the question, when exactly can Calgarians expect Green Line LRT construction to begin?