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Calgary arena-related infrastructure tops Alberta transpo minister’s mandate letter

Minister's letter raises further expansion of rail talk across Alberta - with several mentions of Calgary.

Finalizing a cash commitment for infrastructure related to Calgary’s arena and entertainment district infrastructure is front and centre in the Premier’s mandate letter to her Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors.

The letter, delivered Tuesday, lists first the finalizing of a $300 million election platform commitment to Calgary for “for road and bridge construction, LRT connection, site utilities, site reclamation and other supportive infrastructure to support the development of the new Calgary arena and entertainment district.”

Innisfail – Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen is the Minister responsible for this portfolio.

In the last week of April 2023, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, along with members from Calgary city council, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) and the Calgary Stampede, announced that a new agreement in principle had been struck.

Along with the $300 million in transportation infrastructure was mention of a further contribution to a community arena.

“This should include a partnership with the city, with an additional contribution of up to $30 million, to build a new 1,000-seat community arena neighbouring the main arena that will serve youth and amateur hockey,” read Premier Smith’s mandate letter.

When reached Tuesday, Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, who chairs the Event Centre Committee, said it was further reinforcement of the province’s commitment to the project. She said what we’re seeing in the letter is exactly what was promised on the day of the initial announcement.

“We appreciate the continued support from the province but seeing this in writing now, as a mandate letter, from the premier to the minister does help kind of solidify things moving forward,” Sharp said.

Coun. Sharp said that once the province approves the expenditure it would then lead to the fulfillment of definitive agreements with the City of Calgary. That would leave definitive agreements still needing to be ironed out with CSEC and the Calgary Stampede.

That’s still on an end-of-summer timeline, Sharp said.   

Heavy on rail – particularly around Calgary

Minister Dreeshen’s mandate letter also discusses – at length – the need for further exploration of rail options not only in Alberta’s major cities, but around them as well.

It calls for the exploration of cost-sharing agreements with the private sector or cities that support investment in transportation, including public transit and heavy rail that “better connects the Calgary and Edmonton airports to their downtowns, regional communities to Calgary and Edmonton and Calgary to the province’s Rocky Mountain parks system.”

“This must initially include completing the Blue Line link to the Calgary airport,” the mandate letter read.

On Monday, the province announced $3 million for a new study that would look at options around the delivery of rail service connecting downtown Calgary and Calgary International Airport.

When asked Tuesday at the Alberta NDP’s Stampede breakfast, Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said it was a good news announcement.

“I think that that we need to be looking at how we improve transportation from the airport and into downtown Calgary,” she said.

“We need to be looking at all the different ways we improve transportation and public transportation all around the province quite honestly.

Notley said she’s heard from numerous people that ensuring accessibility to both Calgary and Edmonton airports is important – both for travellers and business development and investment.

“I think it’s good news and I hope they move on it in an efficient way,” she said.

The mandate letter also included developing a “Metrolinx-like model” for commuter rail service using Canadian Pacific rail lines from Airdrie to Okotoks. They want it to include the feasibility of using hydrogen-powered trains.

Tec Mandate Letter Transpor… by Darren Krause