Tunnelling under downtown is being hailed the top-option in plans to build and connect Calgary’s next CTrain lines, according to a new report.
This week, city councillors will preside over a report on different ways to bridge the north-central and southeast legs of a future cross-town LRT known as the Green Line.
The highest-ranked route in the report — albeit one of the priciest — sees underground rail service starting at 16 Avenue N. Moving south, it eventually meets 2 St. SW around Eau Claire and carries on through the core to the CP Rail train tracks.
William Hamilton, with advocacy group TransitCamp YYC, sided with calls for the downtown portion to be buried below grade to avoid big-time traffic complications.
“The moment you turn the Green Line to a north-south axis through the city centre, you have to run it underground,” Hamilton said, noting the low-floor-style train cars are too long to sync up with traffic lights.
He did admit: “Light-rail tunnels do not, however, come cheaply.”
As a general rule, Calgary Transit planner Jon Lea said constructing underground rail tunnels costs 10 times more than street-level lines. Lea noted there could be other hurdles in going underground including utility hazards, soil conditions and flood-related fears.
“Everything is a challenge,” Lea said. “ Especially building an LRT in existing communities in centre city and downtown.”
Some of the alternatives LRT alignments pitched in the report by Edmonton-based consultants, such as meandering routes further west through the Beltline, were shot down earlier in the process in favour of lines geared toward moving more people in and out of the core.
A city committee will review the update this week, and further consultations are planned in late April or May.
Until now, debate on the upper half of the Green Line has mostly raged over picking a north-south corridor from Beddington Trail to 16 Avenue N. However, planners have now narrowed the options to Edmonton Trail or Centre Street.
That was the “big decision” up for discussion this week for Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who applauded the move to put public transit closer to where people live, and away from previous plans around Nose Creek.
“We’re trying to create a new transit rider who uses transit on a daily basis,” Carra said.