Calgary Eyes Pricey Tunnel for Light-Rail Extension

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Calgary Eyes Pricey Tunnel for Light-Rail Extension

Passengers wait to board a train at Saddletowne Station in Calgary. (Photo by By David Wilson)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

New Line Will Double Calgary’s Light Rail Network
If Calgary transit officials heed the advice of the engineers working on the city’s new Green Line LRT project, Calgary will join the ranks of Canadian cities with subway tunnels.

Global Rail News reports that engineers studying five possible options for routing the line through the Calgary city center have recommended the all-underground Option D as the best choice to take the Green Line from the Beltline across the Bow River and into downtown Calgary. Option D is expected to cost $1.3 billion, roughly $500 million more than the other four options.

All five of the alternatives call for an underground station at 14th Avenue North, and all but one, a mostly-elevated route through downtown, have a second underground station at Seventh Avenue Southwest. Only Option D calls for the route to pass under the Bow River in a tunnel rather than over it on a bridge; one version of this option has all five central Calgary stations underground, while the other places the southernmost station at Centre Street South on the surface.

When complete, the 40-km (24.85-mile) Green Line will double the length of Calgary’s LRT network.

“We’re starting to get a sense of what this project could mean for the downtown, and we’re looking forward to continuing our work with Calgarians to further shape this new transit line,” says Green Line LRT Project Manager Jon Lea.

The project team will make a final recommendation on the central Calgary segment next year.

Tashkent Trams Reach End of the Line
As cities in North America and Europe move to restore streetcar service that was eliminated in the 1950s and 1960s, one city in Central Asia has apparently missed the memo.

BBC News reports that many residents of Tashkent are dismayed that the city government has decided to completely shut down and dismantle its 90-km (56-mile) tram network.

A Tashkent Tram (Photo by Zenwort)

Mayor Rakhmonbek Usmavov announced the shutdown in March, saying the trams were unprofitable and slowing down traffic on the city’s busy roads. He went on to add that the city’s bus and metro networks carry thousands more passengers than the trams do every day and that removing the tram infrastructure would allow the city to widen some roads to ease congestion.

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, has had streetcar service since 1912. The network has gradually shrunk in size since 1999, but even as lines were closed, the city continued to acquire new cars from firms in Russia and the Czech Republic. Some are less than five years old. One local resident called city transport managers “idiots” for spending $300,000 per car to purchase new equipment for a system on its way out.

Two of the city’s four remaining tram lines shut down in April, and the final two lines will cease operations in June. Tracks, wires and support poles are already being removed on lines that have already shut down, and all traces of the tram network should be gone by August.

What might be the most prescient of the many comments Tashkent residents have posted on social media lamenting the shutdown came from Umid Abdullayev, who wrote, “Maybe in a couple of years, Tashkent’s next authorities will realize that they made a big mistake and for the sake of the environment decide to rebuild tram rails and buy trams.”

More Light Rail On the Way in Denver
The latest of the numerous rail transit projects Denver’s Regional Transportation District is undertaking as part of its FasTracks expansion program will get under way this month.

A train arrives at the Broadway station in south Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Denver Business Journal reports that the RTD will break ground in May on a 2.3-mile extension of its Southeast light rail line, which parallels Interstate 25. The three-station extension will bring the line into the Ridgegate community of the Denver suburb of Lone Tree.

The federal government will pick up $92 million of the line’s $233 million price tag, with the rest coming from local sources. The federal money, which was provided in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget, will go to project contractor Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. as the down payment for the job. The city of Lone Tree, Douglas County, Coventry Development and the Southeast Public Improvement District have contributed $25 million in cash and $3 million worth of land to the project.

RTD Board Chairman Tom Tobiassen praised the cooperation between federal and local officials that has enabled the agency to keep pace on the promises it made when voters approved FasTracks in 2004. “It is because of our strong partnerships that we continue to expand public transportation throughout the Denver metro area and create a city that is ready for the future,” he says.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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Tags: transportation spendinglight railsubwaysstreetcars

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