Thursday, June 30, 2011

West LRT shifts approach on major infrastructure projects

The West LRT represents a shift in The City of Calgary’s approach on major infrastructure projects.

With a budget of $1 billion, the 8 kilometre West LRT line is the largest infrastructure project undertaken by The City. When complete, it will run from the west side of downtown to 69 Street Southwest, providing access to six new LRT stations, the downtown core, and other destinations along the Calgary Transit network.

“The Municipal Development Plan (Plan It Calgary) and the Calgary Transportation Plan, identified that there is a strong core of workers downtown who need practical alternatives to driving into downtown,” says Darrell Norton, project manager for the West LRT. “The City has made the decision that if it provides viable, affordable alternatives — walking, cycling, public transit — we’ll be able to reduce congestion by getting cars off downtown roads.”

Calgary’s existing LRT lines were built using a conventional method, hiring all contractors separately, and managing them from within The City. It was a process that involved a number of separate contracts and a lot of oversight.

But there are two features that set the West LRT project apart from The City’s previous LRT lines. First, the West LRT has used a design-build model, which bundles together planning, design, engineering and construction. West LRT also includes a transit Oriented development (TOD) project, which is a mixed-use development located on the LRT line that includes a transit station with housing and shopping.

Design-build means The City is only dealing with one company that’s usually large enough to handle a major project such as the West LRT. Working with one company, rather than coordinating several, reduces the likelihood of cost and schedule overruns.

Implementing the line with Transit Oriented Development is "an excellent direction to be taking,” says Norton.

A TOD is built on the philosophy that everything you need, such as groceries and entertainment is available to you within walking distance of a transit stop. The idea has already found success in other cities, including Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. Darrell says TOD developments are going to be popular in future, so long as The City continues to pursue the Plan It ideal to give the Calgary workforce access to the downtown core.

For more information about the West LRT please visit westlrt.ca. Also, more information can be found at Calgary.ca/planit or calgary.ca/tod.

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