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A popular connector between Calgary’s downtown and the Beltline communities has been given a new lease on life as part of the recently completed 5 Street S.W. Underpass Improvement project.

Designed to improve safety and accessibility for the nearly 6,500 pedestrians and 1,200 cyclists who pass through each day, the project enhancements include widened sidewalks, upgraded crosswalks, brighter lighting and safety measures, lifecycle improvements to the bridge and walls, as well as landscaping and beautification in the area. The temporary pilot cycle tracks were also replaced with permanent cycle tracks, with improved separation between the vehicle
travel lanes, cycle tracks, and sidewalks. The 5 Street S.W. stormwater lift station, which pumps water run-off within the underpass to the stormwater system, was also upgraded as part of this project.

Adding to the experience for commuters, Canadian artist Jill Anholt worked with the project team to design an immersive art feature representative of the important relationship Calgary has to water, both past and present. “We’re excited that we were able to collaborate across City teams and with our partners to complete important upgrades to the 5 Street underpass while also integrating a unique, meaningful art feature for all Calgarians to enjoy,” says Project Manager Colin Chapman. “These design and aesthetic improvements will help to enhance safety and create a more comfortable experience for the thousands of commuters that pass through each day.”

Cast using fossilized ripple stone supplied by Rundle Rock (Kamenka) Quarry, the walls of the underpass are inspired by prehistoric times when this area was covered by an inland sea. The sculptural elements, inspired by esker formations that were created by stream deposits once flowing below glaciers in this area, light up the area at night and divide the sidewalk from bike and traffic lanes. Both features commemorate the geological significance of the Bow and Elbow
rivers and serve as a reminder of Calgary’s ancient water-related origins. “This project, like our other downtown underpasses, has an integrated design approach focused on the experience of pedestrians, who will spend the most time experiencing the space as they travel through,” says Main Streets and Centre City Program Manager, Joyce Tang. “The detail of the various textures, materials and colours intertwined seamlessly together speaks to the
quality of design and execution, balancing the urban realm while celebrating our connection to nature.”

Improvements to this underpass, along with other underpasses connecting the downtown core with the Beltline, are part of major infrastructure investments focused on improving connections and enhancing Calgary’s downtown. Investing in the future of public spaces, like the 5 Street underpass, is a fundamental piece of The City’s Downtown Strategy, that was created to support and incentivize private investment, generate visits and spending, and provide amenities and services to enhance the quality of life for people living and working in Calgary’s downtown. The City is taking actions that will improve downtown vibrancy, ensure downtown safety, and support the development of thriving neighbourhoods.

“This underpass demonstrates our City’s commitment to combining form and function with art,” says Ward 8 Councillor Courtney Walcott. “It’s inspiring to see this important piece of infrastructure safely connecting Calgarians and creating a unique and enjoyable commuting experience. ”
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Sean Chu

Sean Chu arrived in Calgary from Taiwan in 1985 speaking not a word of English, and within 7 years he was a sworn officer with the Calgary Police Service. From that point on Sean worked with the Calgary Police Service as on Officer for 21 years in a number of roles until 2013.

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