Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A look into the transformation of The City's Historic 8 Street S.W. underpass

The 8th Street underpass opened fully to the public today. We sat down with Ben Barrington, Centre City Implementation Program Manager, to learn about what citizens can expect from this important infrastructure investment.

Q: How does the new underpass increase pedestrian safety?

We've approached safety from a number of angles which we think citizens and local businesses will appreciate. Complementing new security cameras and call boxes, are design features that include improved lighting, new sidewalks, new stairs and an interactive art installation. These elements contribute to a safer, more enjoyable, experience. Our approach has transformed, what some folks previously thought, were just poorly lit "sidewalks" into a place that is that feels much bigger,  brighter, and more welcoming and  interesting, which  substantially enhances safety.

Q: How many people use this particular underpass?

Situated along the 8 Street S.W. Corridor, this underpass is one of the most used by Calgarians, averaging around 9000 pedestrians a day.

Q: What will be displayed on the public art installation?

Panels along the sides of the s-curve installation will scroll across the snippets and fragments of Calgary's past;  bits of old advertising, classified  ads from 100 years ago, personal  reminiscences on details of daily life. The installation will help present-day Calgarians understand a snapshot of the history of the underpasses and the role of the railway in shaping our city. As they enter the underpass it's as if they are experiencing the past.

 An interesting aspect of this artwork is that pedestrians will have opportunity to interact with the scrolling texts using their smartphones. This feature won’t be functional until late January. By sending keywords to the controlling computer, passers-by can influence the content of the script by finding story from the data base. For example, sending the keyword "oyster" might dig up advertising copy for fresh oysters that were regularly brought to Calgary daily by rail in the 1910s.

Q: Will other underpasses be getting similar treatment?

Yes, in Centre City we've been investing in our Corridor program, and underpass improvements are the first phase of these improvements. This is the third underpass improvement project, having recently completed 5 Street S.W. and 1 Street S.W.,  and in 2017 will start construction on the 4 Street S.W. underpass. Planning for the remaining underpasses will start in the next two years.

For more information, visit www.calgary.ca/8stunderpass.


  1. Cool can't wait to interact with this underpass.

  2. This will be amazing for sure..Just can't wait.