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Premier Danielle Smith wants Calgary airport LRT to take flight

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek pleased that the province has a keen interest in boosting LRT capacity in the city.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the recent letter received from Alberta Premier Danielle Smith at least shows they’re interested in expanding Calgary Transit.

Premier Smith sent a letter to Mayor Gondek, expressing a keen interest in an LRT link to the Calgary International Airport. Earlier this month, the premier had raised concerns about the Green Line’s underground route through the downtown. At that time, she’d also said that she was interested in looking at a link to the airport.

Smith acknowledged that Calgary is a “critical hub” for energy, tech and finance and an important part of the province’s desire to diversify the economy.

“As this important work continues, I would like to work together to explore the option of expanding Calgary’s LRT system to the Calgary International Airport,” the Premier said Tuesday.

“As YYC continues to increase in size and economic importance, the number of domestic and international flights and passenger traffic to and through the airport will also continue to grow. In my view, a direct link between YYC and downtown via the CTrain network should be a transportation priority for both of our governments.”

Currently, route 300 provides bus service from the downtown. That service costs $11.25 from the airport and includes all-day access to buses and trains. You can ride route 300 to the airport for a regular fare from any location, according to the Calgary Transit website.

The City has also undertaken extensive work to plan for a future airport LRT link.

Executive Summary Airport T… by Darren Krause

The east leg, from the Blue Line to the Calgary International Airport would cost between $400 million and $800 million. Adding in a link to the Green Line (west) would tack on a potential $500 million to $1 billion. Roughly 65 per cent of ridership would come from the east link, the city’s report showed.

Airport link conversations have been going on a long time: Mayor Gondek

Premier Smith also said she’s interested in having the city work with them on a potential rail link from Calgary to Canmore and Banff. She said it would boost domestic and international tourism.

The mayor said was happy to hear the province supported a more robust transit system in and around the city.

“To me it sends a clear signal that the province is very interested in strong public transit and transportation options,” she said Tuesday.

Of course, the question is, how much provincial money is on the table?

“Anytime someone indicates a willingness to be part of a project, and to endorse it, and support it, I would hope that they’d be interested in the funding that goes with it as well,” Mayor Gondek said.

As for choosing between a deeper north Green Line connection, which the mayor herself has advocated for years, or an airport link, Gondek said it would be a very interesting conversation.

“We just received the letter. I think it’s premature to talk about who funds what, but I’m interested in the conversation.”

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said Calgarians in the city’s north central are eager to have better transit service to the area. She just wants to make sure that an airport connection would serve the north. Preliminary plans show the line connecting to a station near 96 Avenue N – the vacant five-acre location where a park and ride sign has sat for the past 25+ years. There are no current funded plans to extend the Green Line that far north.

“I think the big thing that I’m looking for is making sure that we use the airport connector that is already contemplated in Green Line to the north,” she said Tuesday.

Mian said she thinks this letter from the Premier shows that they’re listening to the city and Calgarians. It’s a good sign they want to work together on these types of projects.

Area Member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner posted a statement to Twitter on the matter. She said she’s happy to see the province want to invest in Calgary’s transit system. She, too, would like to see north central Calgary serviced. Rempel Garner said the north has been promised an LRT line for some time.

“While those projects are also important, they shouldn’t be considered without looking at how they will serve north central residents, particularly when airport access is being discussed,” Rempel Garner’s statement read.

“I intend to raise the issue with provincial and municipal colleagues on behalf of our shared constituents as discussions on this issue proceed forward.”