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Council approves $4.6B first phase of Green Line LRT

The Blue Line LRT runs in downtown Calgary. (Photo by Chelsey Harms/660 News)

The Green Line LRT will go underground through the core and phase one will cost $4.6-billion.

After a long debate, and to the surprise of many since a decision wasn’t expected until next month, council voted 12-3 to build phase one from 16 Ave. North to Shepard Road at 126 Ave. Southeast.

That’s about 20 kilometres shorter than the original plan of 46 kilometres from North Pointe to Seton, which was quoted at the same cost as this shorter version.

Councillor Andre Chabot was one of the three councillors who voted against moving ahead.

“I can’t support moving forward on this today, not that I’m not supportive of the moving forward with the Green Line,” he said. “I still have questions on funding, what’s within our means, and this to me is beyond our means.”

Debt servicing alone could be close to $2-billion over 30 years on top of the $4.6-billion base cost.

The other ‘no’ votes came from Councillors Joe Magliocca and Ward Sutherland.

But Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra cautioned about the cost of doing nothing.

“What are the impacts to the Deerfoot?” he asked. “What are the impacts if we don’t build this kind of transit? Because I subscribe to the idea that if the next million Calgarians drive as much as the current million do, we’re doomed.”

Green Line Lead Strategic Planner Don Mulligan echoed those concerns.

“Having a complimentary, significant other way of getting north/south will be critical in the long term,” he explained. “Cities that rely just on freeways have problems. They have to spend a lot of money on freeways and they just fill up.”

Councillor Shane Keating admitted phase one is not what council wanted, but says this is still the best outcome.

“This project has to start somewhere,” he said. “That means we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions along the way.”

A letter will now be sent to the province outlining council’s recommendation, hoping it will lead to some sort of funding agreement.

The city has already secured $1.5-billion from Ottawa, and has put aside just over $1.5-billion in the budget for the project.

If all goes to plan, construction should start in 2020 and the stunted version of the Green Line could open in 2026.