Friday, July 23, 2010

City's Transportation boss talks about airport runway tunnel

Here is a letter from Mac Logan, The City of Calgary to the Calgary Herald Editorial Board about Council’s decision not to proceed at this time with a tunnel under the new airport runway. This was published today.

On Monday City Council decided not to build a roadway tunnel together with the Calgary Airport Authority’s new runway. This was a thoughtful decision based on numerous realties.

The Airport has long planned an additional runway and The City has always intended for a transportation link under the runway. Within the year, The Airport will close the section of Barlow Trail on Airport lands, so that construction can begin and the runway open in 2014. On Monday, I advised Council that our opportunity to prebuild a tunnel was about to expire. A thorough debate ensued.

The reality is, The City does not have the available funds to add this project within that timeframe. And neither the Authority nor other levels of government are able/willing to provide new funding to immediately assist. A tunnel today made sense as shared project but doesn't make financial sense for The City alone.

Air travellers currently use several major roadways to reach the terminal. The Authority’s new runway will cut off only one of those access roads.

Will the closure of a portion of Barlow Trail be an inconvenience? Yes, to some. Will it add time getting to and from the airport? Yes, a bit however; Barlow Trail only carries about 1,000 vehicles to and from the terminal during afternoon rush-hour. Will it gridlock northeast Calgary? Absolutely not. There is a significant infrastructure program in place.

For example, this year, The City will improve the condition of 36 St. NE along the east side of the airport and add traffic signals at 36 St. and Country Hills Blvd. The Authority will connect 48 Ave. to 36 St. NE to improve access to businesses and Rotary Challenger Park.

Next year, Metis Trail North will be completed so commuters can connect to Country Hills Blvd. to easily access the airport. Over the next several years, Country Hills Blvd from Barlow Tr. to the ring road will be upgraded from a 2 lane rural road to a 6 lane arterial roadway. We will also add a link to Stoney Tr. at 96 Ave. NE.

In 2012, The City will extend Airport Trail west of Deerfoot Trail, adding a direct connection for northern communities like Harvest Hills and Beddington to the airport terminal area.

And in 2013, the Province will complete the southeast portion of the ring road so commuters from the deep south can easily reach the north end of Calgary without once venturing onto Deerfoot Trail.

Diverting money from other approved road construction projects has financial and business consequences that City Council must consider. Those projects, like a new interchange on the Trans Canada Highway at Canada Olympic Park, are part of The City’s long range transportation plan and are critical to support development that is underway or recently approved by Council.

The bottom line is that while it would be ideal to build a tunnel now, it requires money the taxpayers simply do not have today. Council exhaustively debated the issue and rightfully decided not to go it alone and prebuild something where the benefit lies many years into the future. Instead, The City will continue to find additional ways to provide affordable, accessible transportation options for all Calgarians.

Mac Logan, P. Eng. MBA
General Manager
The City of Calgary’s Transportation Department

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