Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Huge discussion in Calgary about airport tunnel

OK, the history as I understand it is that there has been a plan on the books for at least a decade to expand the Calgary airport with a new runway (a) that runs parallel to the existing north-south runway. This new runway will be longer and wider to accommodate the newest international aircraft (in other words - Airbus A380 and others of its ilk). The runway will essentially go where Barlow Trail used to be, which will cut off what's left of Barlow Trail from direct access to the airport (c). This is a big deal because it forces traffic east of the airport, which includes a dozen or so hotels dependent on airport customers, to go around the west side of the airport via Deerfoot Trail, which is congested enough as it is, being the main north-south artery of our city.

The Calgary Transportation Plan officially indicated the new Airport Trail which connects the Deerfoot to the airport would tunnel (b) under the new runway so it could connect with points east. What nobody seemed to bother checking was the cost of such a tunnel and who would be on the hook to pay for it. The airport folks figure it's not up to them to pay for Calgary roads, new runway notwithstanding. That has left everyone else looking at each other saying "I'm not paying for it." But there's a big drive from interested parties lobbying that the tunnel must be built or the sky is going to fall.

Having had a chance to look at the big picture, I don't even know why we're bothering to consider a tunnel at all. Although extending Airport Trail to the east side of the airport may seem very convenient, the existing Country Hills Boulevard (d) could easily connect points east to the airport with a little road expansion - which it desperately needs anyway. Of course, nothing is going to make it easy getting to the airport from the east side of Calgary unless the roads on the east side of the city are improved as well. There were also concerns that any future LRT line connecting to the airport would need a tunnel under the runway as well, but it seems that there is no agreement on where the LRT line to the airport would be coming from anyway. Some have indicated the smarter choice would be to build an LRT line coming from the west, from the Deerfoot, assuming a high speed rail station will be built in that area in the future. I'm not holding my breath on that plan either. My two cents - the LRT line to the airport should be getting built...... NOW! In which case a tunnel may be justified.

So - Karl's compromise - if you care, is to abandon the tunnel idea and get cracking on improvements to Country Hills Blvd and other roads to the east as a means of access. If you look at the map, it won't make much of a difference.

No comments: