Ray Jones is likely Calgary’s Green Line deciding vote.
At the very least, he’s keeping his voting cards close to his chest on this one.
With the June 15 council vote on the $4.9 billion transit project, Jones, the councillor for Ward 10, said he’s still on the fence.
“I’m right down the middle until I have this meeting with (Green Line GM) Michael Thompson,” he told LiveWire Calgary on Tuesday.
There are two main camps on the Green Line – one that wants to execute the original vision of the plan from 16 Avenue N to Shepherd in the southeast; the other plan stops the line at Eau Claire due to mounting costs.
On Tuesday morning, there was a renewed call for a “lower risk option” as Couns. Jeff Davison, Ward Sutherland and Diane Colley-Urquhart raised concern that they learned last week that $639.9 million in financing costs brought the total project cost to $5.5 billion.
A September 18, 2019 report to the city’s Transportation and Transit committee did, however, highlight that Calgary City Council approved $640 million in financing costs for the Green Line project. Couns. Sutherland, Davison and Colley-Urquhart were marked as in attendance at that meeting.
“This isn’t a $4.9 billion plan, it’s a $5.5 billion plan. And we will need several billion more to build the remaining 26 km north and south. On top of all of this, taxpayers will have to fund operating and maintenance costs,” said Colley-Urquhart, who added her name to the list of councillors advocating for the truncated line.
Colley-Urquhart joined the aforementioned Couns. Davison and Sutherland, along with Couns. Jyoti Gondek and Peter Demong pushing for a different option.
Jones said he understands where these councillors are coming from on the cash front.
Now or never, said Jones
Nothing about the project is of specific concern, Jones said. He just wants more information on the pros and cons of the two Green Line versions.
He didn’t participate in the Green Line meeting June 1, so he’s hoping to get up to speed with GM Thompson on Thursday. Councillors were updated with the latest alignment at that meeting.
Jones said, however, if the decision is made to cap the line, the portion to the north won’t get done. We have the provincial and federal cash to help today, he said.
“If we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it – while the money’s there,” Jones said.
He hasn’t heard much from constituents on the matter as he said his ward is likely the least affected along the path.
“That’s why I’m going in with an open mind,” he said.
Jones was also cold to a report that Coun. Jeromy Farkas wanted a plebiscite on the Green Line.
“You know, if we listened to (Coun.) Farkas, we’d have a plebiscite on every issue,” Jones said.
“We just can’t do that. We’re elected to make a decision. We’ve got to make a decision.”