Outrage followed when the federal and provincial governments recently announced they will not pay almost $200 million for the airport tunnel proposed to link 96th Ave. N.E. to Airport Trail, but the outrage is misdirected.
Assuming the estimated $287-394-million tunnel is even needed, the only reason it is needed is because the Calgary Airport Authority is constructing a new runway that will see Barlow Trail north of McKnight Boulevard closed permanently to make way for it. But I haven’t seen many pointing fingers at the airport authority.
The closure is going to increase congestion on the remaining routes to and from the airport, and adversely affect hotels, restaurants and other businesses south of the airport.
Calgarians are reacting to the impending impacts. More than 400 people attended a rally in November demanding public funding for the tunnel.
Two Facebook groups have been created for the same reason. And a group called the Airport Trail Access Committee has set up a website, created a YouTube video and has been rallying support from citizens to lobby for government funding of the project.
The federal and provincial governments were each asked to pony up $98.6 million, the city promised $50 million as well as ongoing maintenance costs, but the airport authority, responsible for shutting down the Barlow Trail access, only put $40 million on the table.
They could do better. Vancouver’s Canada Line — linking the Skytrain from the airport in Richmond to Vancouver covering 19.2 kilometres and carrying around 100,000 passengers daily — received 19 per cent of its funding from the Vancouver Airport Authority, five per cent more than the Calgary Airport Authority offered for the tunnel.
The bulk of the funding for the Canada Line came from the federal and provincial governments, but its impacts are arguably much more favourable to the public —not just increased access to and from the airport, but also reduced greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
Our proposed tunnel included space for a future rail link that could be used to link the airport to a future LRT station.
Those plans are so far off and tentative though, they’re almost not worth mentioning. Let’s be clear — the tunnel is for cars and that’s not good enough.
We shouldn’t be so eager to pour public funds into an inferior project that also isn’t getting backed up with adequate financing from the airport authority — after all, they caused this mess in the first place.