Alberta Premier Danielle Smith addressed a Calgary business crowd Friday, saying they remain committed to Calgary’s Green Line will move ahead with Deerfoot Trail improvements.
The Premier delivered her address at a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Westin Hotel in Calgary on Friday.
Premier Smith began with a quick story on how she actually applied for the role currently held by Chamber CEO Deborah Yedlin.
“It’s OK. I got another job. Don’t worry about me,” Premier Smith quipped.
The Premier then dove into her desire to continue building Calgary into a world-leading city.
“Calgary will get the care, attention and respect it deserves from our government so that it can continue to grow safely and efficiently,” Premier Smith said.
“I want Calgary to succeed. It was my home for many years. I spent most of my life having been born and raised in Calgary and I will always love Calgary because it has been such a big part of my life.”
Premier Smith talked about some of the headwinds faced in Alberta. Some are global, like the Ukraine conflict with Russia, she said. Others are closer to home, noting “punishing sanctions and regulations on Alberta’s energy sector. She noted Energy Minister Sonya Savage was at the COP27 summit to talk about Alberta’s natural resource development in a sustainable and responsible manner.
She noted a recent media story that had federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change saying he wouldn’t sign off on a phase out of oil and natural gas because it would just face court challenges. (He said that wasted valuable time combating climate change.)
“This is what happens when you push back on Ottawa and you make them realize that we have a cooperative federalism,” Premier Smith told the crowd.
Deerfoot Trail upgrades promised by the Premier
At the end of her speech, Premier Smith reaffirmed commitment to Calgary’s $5.5 billion Green Line transit project.
“This is Calgary’s biggest transportation infrastructure project and it will have a major impact on commute times, Calgarians quality of life and the city’s job market,” she said.
“We’re focused on seeing the Green Line become operational and will maintain support for helping this project to build our communities.”
Smith also referenced the letter she wrote to Mayor Jyoti Gondek about an airport LRT extension. She also mentioned work on the west – and final – leg of the ring road would be complete in the fall of 2024.
Then, Premier Smith committed to upgrades to Deerfoot Trail. Previously, the province and city had developed a plan for the Deerfoot Trail corridor to be built under a public-private partnership model. That fell through in July.
“This investment will target key bottleneck areas between Glenmore Trail and Anderson Road, Bow Bottom Trail where congestion is a problem,” the Premier said.
“Those of you who listened to me on radio know that I would complain about that every single day. So now I’m going to do something about it.”
Alberta Transportation confirmed Friday that they’d adjusted its public-private partnership procurement process to allow bids with the hope of selecting a successful contract in spring 2023.
The work will focus on improving interchanges at Bow Bottom Trail, Anderson Road, Southland Drive and Glenmore Trail. This will include seven new bridge structures and more lanes in the corridor.
The province expects construction to start next year and be complete by 2027. No budget for the project has been provided. Previously $210 million had been set aside in the budget for Deerfoot Trail improvements.
Not a complete surprise: Mayor Jyoti Gondek
Premier Smith said that Deerfoot Trail is a provincial highway, but until the final slice of the ring road is completed, they can’t turn Deerfoot back to the city.
They can’t do that until they get Deerfoot Trail in better condition, Smith said.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the Deerfoot Trail work has been on the books for some time, and then it wasn’t. A roughly $2 billion plan was unveiled almost two years ago. The mayor welcomed the infrastructure investment.
“I know some Calgarians will be happy about that. It’s always nice to get investment in our city, but I really wish we would start looking at investing in transit,” she said Saturday.
“Those dollars could have been spent on building the Green Line north and that is absolutely a priority for us right now. The idea of doing upgrades to road infrastructure while not reinvesting in transit is a little tough for me to take but we’re happy to see the provinces interested in supporting Calgary.”
Mayor Gondek wasn’t aware of any immediate plans to turn the 40+ kilometre stretch of road back to the city.