Calgary, Alberta: Green Line LRT tunnel option approved in principle by Calgary city council

Everyone wants tunnels and subways. Victorian railway companies in the UK, bankrupted themselves with needless and over engineered tunnels because they were in vogue.

Calgary’s LRT was designed more as a light metro than light rail, but that still did not stop transit planners from putting the C-Train mostly at grade, with on-street operation in the city centre.

The C-Train is now operating four car trains, with growth projections exceeding 15,000 pphpd for the ‘Belt Line’, building a subway becomes a viable option, but please note, Calgary’s politicos are much more fiscally prudent than those in Vancouver.

In Calgary, the $2 billion subway option is being considered (“councilors were careful to addAi??a two-word caveat ai??i?? “in principle”Ai??ai??i??Ai??to their recommendation to city staff to pursueAi??the tunnel option“), while in Vancouver, city council is gung-ho on a $3 billion SkyTrain subway on a route with traffic flows projected to be less than 5,000 pphpd, past Cambie St.!

The only conclusion one can make is that the term “financial prudence” is not in the lexicon at Vancouver City Hall!

Green Line tunnel option approved in principle by Calgary city council

Councillors see underground route from north-central Calgary to Beltline as best, but worry about $2B cost

ByAi??Robson Fletcher,Ai??CBC NewsAi??Posted: Oct 04, 2016 4:05 PM MTAi??Last Updated: Oct 04, 2016 4:05 PM MT

Calgary city council voted TuesdayAi??in favour of what’s seen as the best butAi??most expensive option for the eventual new Green Line of the LRTAi??ai??i?? a $2-billion tunnel beneath Crescent Heights, the Bow River and downtown.

But, hedging slightly, councillorsAi??were careful to addAi??a two-word caveat ai??i?? “in principle”Ai??ai??i??Ai??to their recommendation to city staff to pursueAi??the tunnel option, which was one of several proposed to get the futureAi??light-rail line from a point north of 16th Avenue North all the wayAi??to 10thAi??Avenue South.

Coun. PeterAi??Demong, in particular,Ai??worried about the price tag of the tunnel and whether it would break the still-uncertain budget for the megaproject.

“The underground option is, more than likely and from everything I’ve read,Ai??the best option,” he said.

“But just because it’s the best option, if we can’t afford it, when we look at the entire line or at least a good portion of line in its entirety, what’s the point of making something,Ai??if you can’t make it a usable option?”

The federal government has committed $1.5 billion to the Green Line,Ai??which is to run all the way from the city’s northern periphery to the deep southeast community of Seton, and the city has earmarked $1.5 billion of its own to be accrued over a period of 30 years.

The planned route of the Green Line is indicated by the green line on this map. (City of Calgary)

But the Alberta government has yet to make a formal commitment to the project and, even if the province kicks in matching funds, councillors expressed worries that the combined $4.5 billion will fall well short of what’s needed to build the entire Green Line.

Coun. Shane Keating acknowledged that major funding questions remain, but said that shouldn’t stop the city from pursuing the tunnel as a serious and leading choice for the north-central section.

“Let’s build the strongest possible skeleton for the future development of the Green Line,” he said. “As the funding picture becomes clearer, we can decide on how this project will take shape.”

At an estimated $1.95 billion, the tunnel was more expensive than four other options being considered for the north-central stretch of the Green Line, which ranged fromAi??$1.5 to $1.8 billion.

All those price tagsAi??are “Class 3” estimates, meaning they are believed to be accurate in a range of -30 per cent to +50 per cent.

The full-tunnel route would see the LRT line run underground from a point north of 16th Avenue North all the way south to the Beltline in a tunnel beneath both the Bow River and downtown Calgary. (City of Calgary/Screenshot)

Other options for crossing the Bow RiverAi??included running the LRT line down the existing Centre Street Bridge andAi??building a new bridge that would run over Prince’s Island Park into Eau Claire.

To get through downtown, meanwhile, the other options included a shorter tunnel beginning atAi??Eau Claire and an elevated LRT line that would run from Eau Claire down Second Street S.W., over top of +15 walkways along the way.

A consultant’s report suggested the elevated platform would hurt property values along Second Street, however,Ai??and cost the city an estimated $680 million in lost property taxes over 30 years.

For the section of the Green Line that would run through the Beltline south of downtown, council also voted Tuesday to instruct city staff to continue investigating an underground tunnel beneath 12th Avenue South as an option for moving trains to the east and connecting to the eventual southeast leg of the line.

That option had initially been ruled out by city staff but numerous area residents said they wanted it back on the table.


One Response to “Calgary, Alberta: Green Line LRT tunnel option approved in principle by Calgary city council”
  1. Haveacow says:

    What is even more important is that, the planners really went hog wild on alternatives to the completely tunneled route option. They had no fewer than 8 realistic non tunneled alternatives and 2 extra routes with partial tunnels. That is a big deal when planners offer that large an amount of alternatives. This gives the impression that they haven’t “stacked the deck” for the real preferred, single option. Combine that with the fact that, many of these other options were could have been easily accepted by the Calgary public shows that they honestly wanted real viable alternatives to a downtown tunnel. This compared to the “stacked deck” design options, approach your Translink put out towards your Broadway line. Never putting LRT in a tunnel as a study option was just one of a few glaring errors in my professional opinion.

    Calgary studied transport alternatives like BRT and a form of Light to Medium Capacity Metro system for the Green Line and openly compared them with their current LRT operating standards. Then studied right of way options once that was out of the way. Calgary made sure that when the BRT or Light Metro options were studied they were put in a realistic operating environments using sensible practices used elsewhere in Canada. Whereas the Broadway study combined the geographic right of way options and alternative rapid transit operating technology options at the same time and came up with a very small number of alternative operating scenarios that were mostly laughable in their scope and not a viable alternative to anything but the current status quo. Thus a Skytrain operating in a tunneled right of way easily became the chosen option.

    Plus, I still don’t understand fully the decision that said, we must build a Skytrain extension to the Millennium Line outwards to semi distant suburbs first, instead of spending what turned out to be the last big pot of money Translink was going to get for awhile, instead an extension of the Millennium Line inward, on top of or underneath Broadway. Considering this so called area is the most heavily travelled route or groups of routes in the entire Vancouver area. If your going to build a Skytrain line anyway, why not on your busiest routes. This is disregarding for the moment that the passenger levels are really too small for tunneled rapid transit route of this length (14km total route).

    Even with the expensive and complex Eglinton Ave Crosstown LRT line in Toronto, designers desperately tried to limit the amount of tunnel to, 11 out of 19 km in the first phase of the line but had few choices because of the width of the surface right of way over the central sections of Eglinton Ave. In the 1870’s and 1880’s the central section of what is now Eglinton Avenue East and West was going through its first phase of suburbanization, which was before automobiles or even electric streetcars were a realistic consideration thus the legal road allowances were comparatively very narrow. Toronto did have an experimental electric railway operating in the exhibition grounds during the early 1880’s, testing the Trolley Pole method of power collection (designed by Charles Van Depoele) but it wasn’t commercially viable technology yet. Toronto’s first electric streetcars weren’t introduced until 1892 replacing the 31 year old (1861) animal powered streetcar system. The land purchase/reclamation cost for just the Crosstown LRT Yard alone was almost $800 Million. You know you are in for an expensive line when that simple but desperately needed purchase and soil cleaning cost is that high (this had been polluted industrial land for over a century).