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Study coming on Calgary downtown to airport rail link

Results are expected to come in August 2024, a news release read.

The province is moving ahead with the City of Calgary to identify an ideal route to connect the downtown with the international airport via rail.

During the last provincial budget, the province earmarked $3 million for further investigation into the link. Now, the Calgary Airport Rail Connection study is set to recruit an engineering consultant to do a technical study.

This will all be done in partnership with the Canada Infrastructure Bank, the Calgary International Airport, Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) and other private rail developers with plans to connect Calgary with other regions.

Since last November, Premier Danielle Smith had indicated her desire to see an LRT link to the Calgary International Airport.

The link is also an important one for the City but was planned to be done in conjunction with other work, including the extension of the northeast line and the extension of the Green Line to the north.

“It’s important for us to take a comprehensive look at all factors in this technically and physically constrained corridor to establish an optimal functional alignment that will best serve Calgarians, visitors and employees of the airport and surrounding lands,” said Michael Thompson, General Manager of Infrastructure Services with the City of Calgary.

“The study will consider existing rail plans, past City of Calgary transit studies and other opportunities, to help guide future transit planning.”

The City has already done extensive work on an LRT link to the airport through its current transportation planning.  They did public consultation on the different options they were considering back in June 2019.

Those plans, however, had it as a part of the current Calgary Transit build-out in the northeast that would eventually cross over to an extended Green Line along 96 Avenue N.

The inclusion of CPKC Rail in the conversation could mean the use of a rail line directly adjacent to Deerfoot Trail to the west. There had been ongoing talk and routing suggestions in the past for the Green Line to go up that rail corridor.

Regional rail involvement

The information provided by the province also indicated they would work with regional rail partners to help determine the ideal alignment.

In June 2020, the province and the Canada Infrastructure Bank signed a Memorandum of Understanding to complete studies on a Calgary to Banff rail link that also fed into the international airport.

It’s been touted as a 130-kilometre rail corridor that would have six stops – including the Calgary International Airport – and could help generate $1.2 billion in additional economic impact.

The province lists the estimated $1.5 billion project on their major projects list, noting that Liricon Capital has begun development of that line. A December 2021 news release shows that Liricon’s project had entered the design phase.

The proposed Calgary Airport Rail Connection Study will include a ridership review, development and evaluation of different alignment scenarios and help determine the optimal connection from downtown to the airport.

“As Calgary continues to grow, it’s vital to have a roadmap to build out a transit network that increases capacity and supports transportation needs, now and into the future,” said Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, Devin Dreeshen.

“This project is an important step forward in providing direction on affordable transit infrastructure that will best serve Calgary, while respecting taxpayers’ investment.”

It’s expected an engineering consultant will be selected and work will begin in October 2023, with a report complete by August 2024.

The recommendations will then go to Calgary city council to “help guide The City’s short to long-term transportation and land use planning.”