A successful bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics could also push forward plans to link the Calgary International Airport with the downtown core via the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.
In a Calgary Herald article, Mayor Naheed Nenshi says a successful bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics could accelerate long-term plans to establish an LRT station at the airport, which would provide Calgarians and travellers easy airport access via the transit system.
The airport LRT project is low on the city’s priority list for development. Its expected completion date is in about 20 to 30 years but could be pushed forward if Calgary hosts the 2026 Winter Olympics.
However, Chris Jordan, manager of transit planning for the city, says it might be too early in the Olympic bidding process to determine if all this Olympic talk will accelerate plans for an airport LRT station.
“It’s important to note that all that’s been initiated thus far by city council is an exploration of the bid, whether to bid or not. So really, we are not committed yet as a city to make the bid,” he says.
Jordan says this is a part of the natural process of city development planning.
“We haven’t really accelerated any of the work that we wouldn’t have otherwise done specifically for the Olympics, but the work that we’ve accelerated has more been to get projects moving from beyond the concept level stage to more of a shovel-ready stage in the event that funding is available for all sorts of transit projects,” Jordan says.
Currently, the city has four bus routes stopping at the airport. Routes 57 and 100 are designated for northeast Calgary, while Route 430 serves communities in the northwest. Route 310 is a bus rapid transit with limited stops from the airport terminal to downtown.
Since planning for an airport LRT station is only a section of a much larger city study called the Airport Functional Planning Study (2012), the estimated cost of the project is still in need of a re-evaluation.
“It’s been awhile since we established a cost and our costs will need updating,” Jordan explains. “That will be part of our functional planning work; to establish what the cost is associated with different technology options. We’ve seen a wide range in costs for airport rail connections throughout North America. So that’s definitely one of the things that we’re going to update as part of our study.”
While the airport LRT station is still on standby, infrastructure needs near the airport have been identified for the station’s establishment.
According to Jordan, the City of Calgary and the Calgary Airport Authority meet frequently to discuss these future plans.
“More recently, between 2012 and this year, functional planning studies for Airport Trail, roadway, interchanges and the light rail transit (LRT) right-away were updated to identify what land would need to be protected to accommodate all of the transportation needs coming from the city, to and from the airport,” he says.
Media relations personnel for the airport commented in an email that the project is still in its preliminary stages and more information on it will be available in the future.