Nenshi downplays premier’s concerns about Green Line

Hours after a report that Jason Kenney favours hitting the brakes on Calgary’s Green Line, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Alberta’s premier raised good questions but countered that any major delays would only drive up costs.

Nenshi said Thursday that he’d oppose any significant delays to the $4.9 billion light-rail transit project for that reason.

The Green Line route and stations were approved by city council two years ago. However, problems have emerged in recent weeks with the plan for a four-kilometre tunnel that would take the trains under the downtown and the Bow River. 

Kenney told the Calgary Sun he favours hitting the brakes on the Green Line until there’s a review of where the train should go and what portion should be elevated, on the ground or in a tunnel. 

“We’ve got a lot of questions we need answered and these are responsible questions. This should not be some overheated debate where people start making accusations that you’re against mass transit or against the Green Line,” Kenney told the Sun.

Council’s transportation committee voted last month to support breaking the project into three separate contracts instead of one massive project that might attract fewer bidders.

That would mean taking bids for construction of the 16-kilometre southeast portion of the route, which is mostly overland and then taking bids for the remaining four kilometres though downtown to 16 Avenue North. 

If council approves the plan, construction on the southeast portion would be delayed one full year until 2021 with the work on the downtown portion coming later.

Bridge over Bow back on table

The committee also heard that, due to unspecified technical issues, the train line will not tunnel under the Bow River.

Sources have told CBC the city is looking at building a bridge over the Bow for the train line, but there will still be a tunnel through the downtown core.

Nenshi said Kenney’s questions are already being answered by the city, adding that he’s looking forward to bringing the premier up to date.

The two leaders have only seen each other informally at various events since Kenney was sworn in last April. He hopes the leaders meet soon.

“Sixteen of the 20 kilometres are ready to go and that’s 12,000 jobs so we should just start work on that as soon as possible,” said Nenshi.

Nenshi said delaying the Green Line could cost millions of dollars.

“We should move forward,” said Nenshi. “Every day we delay costs way more money.”

MP enters the fray

Kenney’s former federal caucus colleague, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, also weighed in on the issue on Thursday.

She issued a news release, joining in on the calls for a Green Line delay.

Rempel also upped the ante by suggesting that the Centre Street alignment approved by council after lengthy public consultation is the wrong route and may negatively affect communities in her riding.

“We should be looking at all options to get this line built, even if it means entertaining less expensive options,” said Rempel in the release.

She suggests that examining alternatives like an alignment along the Nose Creek Valley instead of Centre Street might be a better option for building the line more quickly.

“The north portion of the Green Line should not be sacrificed to build out the south portion.”

Gondek also supports another look

Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek agrees with Rempel’s position in reopening the entire project to see if there are better ways to get more rail built for the money already committed by the three orders of government for the project. 

“It wouldn’t delay the project because if you can do an alignment that’s easier, that has less land acquisition tied to it, why not? Remember that Ward 3 has right of ways that are ready to go right now,” said Gondek.

City council will discuss the Green Line issue later this month as well as a notice of motion from Coun. Evan Woolley calling for a pause in the project. 

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