You may have seen recent stories in the news and information on social media around changes to the Green Line and what that might look like. The City gave an update on June 27 that more evaluation between 16 Avenue N station and Ramsay is required to ensure we build stage 1 of the Green Line within our budget while maintaining our project vision, but no particular option has been confirmed yet.
What is the status of the Green Line right now?
At this time, 16 kilometres of the Green Line, between Ramsay and 126 Avenue S.E. are ready for construction and The City will be moving forward with the release of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for this portion of stage 1 by July 31, 2019.
The City’s top priority is to build stage 1 of the Green Line within the budget of $4.9 billion while maintaining the projects vision of building a transit service that connects existing communities in centre north and southeast Calgary, connecting people and places and that is integrated with the communities it serves.
To do this and ensure the City gets the best value of out of every dollar spent, the Green Line needs more time to continue evaluating the Centre City portion, between 16 Avenue N and Ramsay, which could lead to changes, including shortening the tunnel and bringing some stations to surface.
How did we get to this stage?
The technical team has advanced the design of the project and evaluated construction risks. The more detailed the design became and the more we investigated the risks the more the City realized that we could not deliver the full tunnel with four underground stations within the budget. For this reason, the City is investigating how to shorten the tunnel and bring stations to the surface.
Are we still building the tunnel?
Yes, our plan is to build a tunnel downtown as part of Green Line stage 1, however we need to reduce the length to make sure the project is within budget. The City understands that putting the Green Line underground through the downtown core is critical for many reasons, including minimizing disruption to business, maintaining traffic movement for all modes of transportation across 4 Avenue, 5 Avenue and 6 Avenue and future LRT operations.
The City is evaluating design options, including a bridge over the river, to reduce the depth of the underground segments, which will make the system more accessible for users and will reduce construction and operation costs.
The City will talk to Calgarians in more detail about the tradeoffs of being deep below the river and the downtown, versus being shallow through the downtown. No final decisions have been made yet and the Green Line team is still evaluating different options.
What considerations went into deciding to shorten the tunnel?
The vision for the Green Line, developed with the input of thousands of Calgarians, was to build an efficient, convenient transit service that is beautiful, and integrated into each community. The project team has not veered away from this vision and still plans to use low-floor trains that more easily integrate with the urban fabric of a community and have kept easy access to stations in mind while we continued to advance the design.
There are significant costs to building four underground stations and mitigating risks associated with building a 4 km tunnel. Being financially responsible with taxpayer dollars, especially in Calgary’s current economic time, is the City’s top priority. To ensure the City does not go over budget the City increased their contingency fund but also need to continue evaluating options to shorten the tunnel. This is prudent.
Recently, the Green Line team was investigating a single bore tunneling method which had a positive impact on reducing the amount of cut and cover construction through the downtown and utility relocation, which were risks the City needs to mitigate. The negative impact of the single bore tunnel though, was that the depth of the stations was increased, making customers travel five to seven stories underground to reach stations and increasing the City’s operating costs. The City did not believe the depth of these stations would meet the vision for an accessible transit service.
These tradeoffs are things we need to discuss with Calgarians.
Why is construction for stage 1 of the Green Line being split into two phases?
The 16 kilometres between Ramsay and 126 Avenue S.E. are ready for construction, the planning is completed, and the land is substantially purchased and owned by The City. The City does not foresee any significant changes to the alignment in this area and delaying the start of construction will cost approximately $50 million yearly due to escalation. The City expects good pricing in the current construction market and this area is significant enough in size that it will attract a number of interested contractors.
Additionally, the City has completed value engineering between Ramsay and 126 Avenue S.E. to reduce the cost and will continue to seek efficiencies and savings through the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and Request for Proposals (RFP) process. The Centre City area needs further design and discussion with communities to ensure that we are meeting the original vision while staying within the total Stage 1 project budget. Moving forward with the first contract at this time will reduce The City’s escalation costs. Escalation means the increase in construction costs over time.
What would be the cost of pausing the Green Line for a year?
The cost to delay the Green Line by one year is determined by adding a 2% escalation factor to the amount of capital still to be spent on the project. Based on these numbers a delay of a year on both contracts for stage 1 of Green Line will cost approximately $90 million. To delay construction on the first phase would cost approx. $50 million. The concern with a delay is that unless we increase the budget we will be trading off escalation for scope, which means we will have less money to physically build the project.
Will The City do additional engagement?
The portion of the Green Line between 16 Avenue N and Ramsay requires additional analysis by the technical team, but the Green Line team also needs time to talk to adjacent community members about the different tradeoffs between some of the options we are looking at.
Over the coming months the Green Line team will be reaching out to community members and hosting information sessions to discuss what they have learned and give you the opportunity to ask the project team questions. Stay tuned for more details, or if you have questions please email the Green Line team at firstname.lastname@example.org. For the latest project news and opportunities to get involved, check back regularly at Calgary.ca/GreenLine. Follow the Green Line story on Twitter @yyctransport #GreenLineYYC or email email@example.com for further questions.