Colleagues shoot down councillor’s attempt to pause Phase 2 of southwest BRT
Construction on a dedicated bus lane down 14 St. is expected to start next year, after a rookie councillor’s pitch to pause the controversial plan for expanded transit in the city’s southwest failed to gain support at council Monday.
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas joined forces with Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart — who was a no-show at Monday’s meeting — to pen the unsuccessful notice of motion that asked administration not to award tender of Phase 2 of the southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) line, effectively blocking its route down 14 St. S.W.
Construction companies have already bid on the project’s second phase and the attempt to delay tendering until the project’s second segment was reviewed, including a look at all costs, was defeated in an 11-3 vote after hours of debate.
Councillors Sean Chu, Joe Magliocca and Farkas were the only three to support halting the project, and while the idea failed to gain a simple majority, a super-majority of 10 votes was needed for the pitch to pass because the notice of motion was a reconsideration of a decision council made in July 2016.
“I’m disappointed that council chose to overrule the wishes of tens of thousands of Calgarians who live in the affected wards,” Farkas said after the decision. “I’m going to be pushing hard to hold this decision accountable, to ensure that the southwest BRT as approved is delivered on budget.”
The 22-km transitway, approved by council in ’11 and initially estimated to cost $40 million, is part of the city’s 30-year RouteAhead transit plan. It will ferry riders to and from downtown to Mount Royal University, Rockyview General Hospital and Woodlands. The segment of the southwest BRT that ColleyUrquhart and Farkas failed to pause extends from south of Glenmore Tr. to Woodbine, and includes dedicated bus lanes in front of the Rockyview Hospital, an underground bus tunnel at 90 Ave. and 14 St. S.W., two pedestrian bridges and a transit terminus in the neighbourhood of Woodbine.
Elected officials argued passionately against the proposed pause to a project that was heavily debated before Farkas was elected and has long faced vocal opposition.
“I was really asking myself, ‘Why do I find this notice of motion so offensive? Is it just because I support the project?’” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. “Actually, no. It’s because this notice of motion — in and behind it — implies that council has not done its job.”
Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong said halting the project could be detrimental to the city’s reputation and finances.
“I just can’t think of a logical, great, solid reason — nor have I heard one here — as to what pausing for three weeks would get us,” he said.
During debate, Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek said the city must invest in transportation to address citizen needs.
“We have a responsibility to offer options for people to get around the city — whether it’s for work or school, child care or senior care, medical needs or social needs,” she said.
“I’m disappointed council chose to overrule the wishes of tens of thousands of Calgarians...” Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas