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Calgary’s Green Line to go ahead with a two-phased construction process

Calgary’s Green Line project will inch ahead in a two-phased strategy, following the conclusion of a provincial review, the city has said.

According to the city, the $5.5 billion project will now be done through a revised procurement process. The first phase will be built from Shepard to Eau Claire.

The project had been on hold for roughly a year as the province and city wrangled over technical risks to the project. Those items have apparently been ironed out and a new business case was submitted to the federal and provincial governments on May 28.

“The business case for Green Line remains strong,” said Don Fairbairn, Executive Chair, Green Line Board.

“Moving forward with a new procurement will bring greater cost certainty and ensure we can deliver on our mandate to build Green Line, within Council approved direction, on behalf of our funding partners and for Calgarians.”

Fairbairn said there would be a very strong level of cost certainty when bids are received. Originally, the project was to have three segments: Shepard to the Elbow River, Elbow to Eau Claire (underground downtown) and then from Eau Claire to 16 Avenue N. It was done to split to contracts into more manageable portions, allowing more bidders to enter the competitive process. Now, the first two segments are into one.

“We have a belief that there are a sufficient number of vendors and teams that will be interested in this project,” Fairbairn said.

Going North?

Fairbairn said that was a significant change in the procurement, but not the overall project. He said they remain committed to going north.

According to the city, they will advance the phase 2 plan from Eau Claire to 16 Avenue N if cost escalations don’t materialize in phase 1. The city said that for each 0.5 per cent in escalation, it costs $100 million.

This plan does put the north phase in flux, awaiting potential cost escalations. LiveWire Calgary was first to report that revisions to the city’s Green Line plan could push off the north leg well into the future.

“We have a level of confidence that we can deliver this program and available funding. we will know with greater certainty as we proceed through the… process,” Fairbairn said.

The BRT funding for the north portion that was included in the original plan was included in the business case that was sent to the province for approval, according to Michael Thompson, General Manager of the Green Line team.

Updates on the procurement process and project timelines will be provided once the new strategy is confirmed, the city said.

This revised process will require a new RFQ and RFP process. That will delay things even further, Fairbairn said.

“Will it take longer than originally envisioned? Yes,” Fairbairn said, though he noted they weren’t sure how much longer at this point.

Province backs the new strategy

In a statement sent to LiveWire Calgary, Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver said he agrees with Fairbairn’s statement that this ensures better cost certainty.

“Alberta’s funding commitment has not changed and our goal for the Green Line is the same: ensuring our $1.53 billion investment goes into a useful, practical and functional Green Line for Calgarians,” McIver’s statement read.

When asked if this allays McIver’s concerns that the original staged approach was a train to nowhere, Fairbairn said they must have alignment from funding partners.

“It’s very, very difficult to move a project of this complexity and this size, if you don’t have alignment with your funding partners,” he said So a great part of our work or past months has been to create alignment.

The province confirmed they’d received the city’s business case and it will be reviewed shortly, the minister’s office said.

Recently, the city also announced that the Beltline and Downtown Utility project was moving ahead.