On Monday, the City of Calgary released an update finally acknowledging to Calgarians the extent of their new plans to delay the Downtown and Beltline portion of the Green Line and scrap much of the underground alignment that was approved by City Council in June of 2017 after years of public engagement with Calgary businesses and communities.
Two years after City Council approved the Green Line alignment, City administration is now reporting they cannot deliver the full tunnel and underground stations within budget.
The decision to completely reconsider the Downtown and Beltline alignments represents a major step backwards for the Green Line project and throws into jeopardy the most critical sections of Calgary’s and Alberta’s largest every infrastructure project, valued at $4.6B.
To make matters more uncertain, Fabiola MacIntyre, the deputy director leading the Green Line credited with being the driving force behind the project, tendered her resignation to the City early this week.
City Administration not being upfront with Calgarians
In their July 8 update to Calgarians on the Green Line, the City of Calgary attempts to make the case that the City should proceed with construction on the Southeast section of the Green Line despite reporting they no longer having a viable alignment through the Downtown and Beltline.
City of Calgary, July 8, 2019 Green Line email update (click to enlarge).
City Administrations cites a $50M cost of delaying the Southeast as good reason to rush ahead on the construction of the Southeast segment starting with the release of the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to industry on July 31st. However, there are several other important cost considerations that City Administration is not being upfront about that remain unanswered.
Potential costs of starting Southeast Green Line construction in the absence of a complete plan
As we have now seen, the City of Calgary is still grappling with many unknowns in the Downtown and Beltline. It would be financially irresponsible of Calgary City Council to proceed on construction of the Southeast portion of the Green Line until the following questions can be answered:
What cost impact will changes to the Green Line alignment through the Downtown and Beltline have on the assessed property values in these areas?
This could impact the bottom line of businesses across Calgary. Presently, businesses in Calgary are already experiencing significant increases to their non-residential taxes due to the devaluation of Downtown properties.
What impact will changes to the Green Line alignment through the Downtown and Beltline have on overall ridership and associated revenues?
Calgary has a long history of cutting corners on LRT station placement to the detriment of ridership (Chinook Station away from Chinook Centre, University Station in the middle of Crowchild Trail, etc.). The City has already reported that the current Phase 1 Green Line alignment will not have enough ridership to cover the estimated $40 million per year operating cost on opening day. Changes to ridership could have considerable cost impacts.
What are the potential costs of penalties or litigation arising from cancellation or design changes to the Southeast Green Line contract that may be required by the City based on still yet to be uncovered information arising from the Downtown and Beltline redesign?
Industry will be investing money in bidding and competing for the Southeast Green Line contract. The City may face litigation or penalties in the event of design changes or late cancellation of the Southeast RFQ/RFP.
City Council must demonstrate leadership and postpone Southeast Construction until there is a plan for Downtown and the Beltline
As we pointed out in our last blog, the City’s own schedule shows that the RFQ for the Southeast section of the Green Line can be postponed as late as 2021 without delaying the overall completion date for Phase 1 of the Green Line.
City of Calgary Green Line team’s proposed plan for splitting the Downtown/Beltline and Southeast portions shows Southeast can be postponed as last as 2021 without delaying the completion date of the Green Line Phase 1.
For the success of the Green Line project, City Council has a responsibility to take the time to make sure we have a viable project and acceptable alignment before we start construction. With so many unknowns and risks at this time, rushing the Southeast construction is neither necessary nor financially prudent.
HELP SAVE THE GREEN LINE DOWNTOWN AND BELTLINE UNDERGROUND ALIGNMENTS!
Let’s make sure that City Council takes the time to make sure Calgary's largest ever infrastructure investment is also Calgary’s best.
1) ASK YOUR CITY COUNCILLOR TO POSTPONE THE SOUTHEAST RFQ CONTRACT SO WE CAN GET THE GREEN LINE RIGHT
Contact your City Councillor and ask them to postpone the RFQ for the Southeast contract so that all cost trade-offs can be evaluated for the entire line, not just the Downtown and Beltline. The RFQ for the Southeast can be postponed until 2021 without any impact on the Green Line Phase 1 completion date.
2) HELP SPREAD THE WORD AND SHARE THIS POST!
Let’s get the message out to everyone. Help spread the word by sharing this post with your friends.