What exactly does 600,000 tonnes of garbage have to do with the Green Line construction?
That much refuse had to be trucked away from the Highfield landfill on Ogden Road in 2018. All to prep for Calgary’s Green Line.
That’s just one of the 20 projects that are either in progress or completed as a part of the Green Line’s $365 million Phase 1 enabling program. The main Green Line contract is entering the Request for Qualification stage, which will lead into a full tendering for the $4.65 billion Calgary transit mega project this year.
Yes, that’s right. Physical work is already underway on the most expensive infrastructure project in the city’s history. Lots of it, in fact. Right through 2019.
It’s everything from deep utility relocation to the construction of the first permanent piece of infrastructure – a tunnel for the Green Line to travel under existing CN Rail lines, also in the Highfield area.
“These projects are really important because what they do is help to eliminate risk to cost and timeline when we go into the main construction,” said Green Line spokesperson, Jessica Bell.
It’s a different approach they’ve taken with the Green Line: separating out the enabling projects (which are done for most major infrastructure projects) from the main contract. In doing so, Bell said, they’ve taken advantage of $365 million in provincial cash.
Coun. Shane Keating, who chairs the city’s transportation committee, said they could have included it in the main contract, but they wanted to find ways to expedite the work, take advantage of provincial dollars over and above the $1.5 billion already committed and give a boost to the local economy in doing so.
“We don’t have to come in 10 years down the road and replace them at their regularly scheduled time,” he said.
“Some of those programs, they had time limits on them. Instead of saying we’ve got one big project over here, are there enabling portions that we can take advantage of different funding mechanisms or grants or procedures that are out there now – and move forward. That’s exactly what happened,” he said.
Keating also said they wanted to guard against cost escalation. With a down economy it was a chance to get good value and put people to work.
“Every year you wait, inflation is going to eat up a little bit more of what you can build,” Keating said.
“It’s making sure we’re being as frugal and efficient in getting the best project for the best dollar at that time. The best bang for the buck if you want to use that term.”
Aside from cost, Bell said it also provides insurance on the timeline as unforeseen events during enabling projects done as a part of the main contract could mean construction delays in getting track laid.
Further, it’s enabled the city to get ahead on some lifecycle infrastructure projects by providing upgrades to deep utilities, roads, sidewalks and pathways in areas where Green Line work is being done.
“They will be new and upgraded pieces of infrastructure, so they reset that lifecycle clock on those water lines and sanitary lines,” Bell said.
In the case of the Highfield landfill remediation, where they removed the equivalent of an entire year’s worth of city waste, it’s also allowed the city to prep the land for rezoning and redevelopment.
Most, if not all, of the projects will be completed by the end of 2019, Bell said. It literally paves the way for the more glamorous track laying and station building (and tunnelling through downtown) portion of the Green Line.
Keating said the idea behind all of this is in looking at each phase and the components therein as different parts, done in isolation of other parts, coming together for a greater vision.
“These are just different aspects of how the Green Line is unfolding, you might say,” Keating said.
While this work may not be getting the big headlines, both Bell and Keating said area residents know it’s underway. The average Calgarian removed from the Green Line’s alignment, however, might see it as just another city construction project.
It’s anything but.
“It may not be overlooked, but it’s certainly not an easy connection to the Green Line,” Keating said.
“We are moving forward. We aren’t doing nothing.”