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Green Line construction won’t start in 2021: GM Thompson

Work on Calgary’s Green Line project will not begin in 2021, even if the procurement pause was lifted today.

That’s what members of Calgary’s Green Line committee heard from Green Line GM Michael Thompson on Wednesday.

Procurement was paused on Segment 1 of Calgary’s Green Line while it worked through plan issues with the province.  

In Wednesday’s meeting, GM Thompson said that no decision has been made on the resumption of a procurement schedule.

“I have been asked by a number of stakeholders regarding segment one construction starting in 2021,” Thompson said.

“And even if the procurement resumed today on segment one that initial construction would not be beginning in 2021.”

Thompson said they’ve been working regularly with the province on some of the outstanding issues. Generally, those talks have been described as progressing.

This development delays the overall delivery of the $5 billion Green Line project.

Work is still ongoing, as Thompson said utility relocations for the Beltline and the Downtown went to RFP and they expect to make an announcement in early April. Thompson said that work could begin in the fall of 2021.

A ‘predicament’

Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who is the vice chair of the Green Line committee and a Calgary mayoral candidate, said it’s frustrating not knowing what the provincial government wants – specifically.

“The province has asked to keep it apolitical, which is pretty rich. It’s pretty rich that the tone and tenor from the province has repeatedly been, ‘It’s a train to nowhere. We have no confidence in the numbers. We need more information,’ You couldn’t send a more clear message of uncertainty than what they’ve done,” Gondek said.

“But when we challenge back we get scolded for questioning what it is that they’re looking for. Here’s the predicament: If we say something, we’re put in a bad light. If we don’t say anything, it looks like we’re not doing anything.”

Gondek said that three orders of government have already said they would support it. She said no one’s pulled funding.

“No one has said that they’re out of the partnership. So, this project is a go.”

Gondek pressed the issue further during the meeting. She asked several times what the specific problems are. There were 17 recommendations made that cover all of the primary provincial concerns.

GM Thompson said the working relationship with the province has been very good since January and they’re working through some of the government’s concerns.

Coun. Gondek was frustrated by the response.

“It’s a little bit mind numbing to me, that all of the things we’ve been talking about for all these years we’re still talking about,” she said.

Prescient transit advocate

LRT on the Green, a Calgary transit advocacy group, predicted the construction delay in a March 19 statement.

“It now seems extremely unlikely we will see shovels in the ground on Green Line in 2021. We are told talks continue but after three months there should be a workable solution to any good-faith concerns that were raised,” said Jeff Binks, president of LRT on the Green.

“The powers that be need to be reminded that the Green Line is not the City of Calgary’s project and it’s not the Government of Alberta’s project. This project belongs to the citizens of Calgary.”

Coun. Gondek asked GM Thompson in Wednesday’s meeting if he saw the delay as a failure.

“There’s nothing more frustrating than not moving forward and building the project. And so while it’s frustrating for us and personally frustrating, Our focus is on making sure that we have a good product at the end of the day,” he said.

After news broke, the Alberta NDP responded.

“The Green Line is critical to revitalizing our downtown and getting Calgarians back to work. This unnecessary delay is a complete failure by Jason Kenney and the UCP that puts 20,000 jobs at risk at a time when Calgarians need them the most,” said Alberta NDP Municipal Affairs critic, Joe Ceci.

“Every day that passes without shovels in the ground lies squarely at the feet of Jason Kenney, Transportation Minister Ric McIver and their UCP government. They somehow managed to find billions of dollars for profitable corporations but came up empty-handed for critical projects that will improve the lives of Calgarians.”