LRT link to airport if Calgary hosts 2026 Olympics?

Mar 14 2017, 3:35 am

A light rail transit connection to Calgary International Airport (YYC) is one of the items for discussion for the municipal government’s Transportation and Transit Committee on Wednesday.

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The staff report states that an Airport Rail Connection would involve connecting the Blue Line to YYC and the future Green Line. Such an extension was already contemplated in the 30-year long-term ‘RouteAhead’ expansion plan approved by Council in 2013.

RouteAhead estimated the 5-km-long airport rail project would cost $175 million and attract an average of approximately 10,000 passengers per day. The rail connection to the airport would be built using the recently-completed, $295-million Airport Trail Tunnel.

Under current plans, the airport rail extension has a “medium-term” priority, behind the $4.5-billion Green Line. However, just last December, Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the Calgary Chamber of Commerce that plans for an airport rail link could be accelerated and prioritized if Calgary is awarded the rights to host the 2026 Winter Olympics.

In a decade from now, with population and employment growth as well as higher air passenger traffic at YYC, there would also likely be higher ridership to support the business case for an airport rail link. Currently, YYC’s public transit connections consist of three bus routes, including the Route 300 BRT.

An airport rail extension could be partially funded by Olympic-affiliated infrastructure investments from the provincial and federal governments, which was the case for Vancouver ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The federal government provided funding for a number of major Olympic-related projects in Vancouver, including $450 million towards the $2-billion SkyTrain Canada Line to Vancouver International Airport, which became the first Canadian airport to be linked to rail transit.

Toronto Pearson International Airport also gained a rail link, the $456-million Union Pearson Express, just in time for Toronto’s hosting of the 2015 Pan American Games.

Last year, plans were unveiled by Quebec’s pension fund to build a rail connection to Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport as part of a new 67-km rail system.

Calgary City Council will vote on whether the city should host the 2026 Games in July, ahead of the International Olympic Committee’s early-fall deadline for cities to submit their intent to bid.

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Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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