South end of Green Line ready for bulldozers

Being a reporter means sometimes, you get to do things other people either haven't done or just wouldn't want to do.

Things like: walking the Green Line.

It's no surprise the Green Line route looks differently on the ground than it does on a map.

But when you actually walk this line, it helps to put it into perspective in a way that maps cannot.

Construction on the Green Line was supposed to start in spring 2020 so this could have been the last time a non-construction worker could get a ground level view before the earthmovers swing into action.

But while working on this story, the Green Line plan changed.

Planners are reviewing the stretch from 16th Avenue North through downtown to the Beltline and Ramsay.

The Green Line team wants to shorten the tunnel under downtown and to stay within the $4.9-billion budget.

While we wait to see what they come up with, construction on the southeast portion has been delayed until 2021.

Still, I went to the south end of the line and started walking toward downtown to get a first hand look.

The key takeaways boil down to this.

  • Like any city, Calgary has some ugly 'back of house' scenery.

  • Besides helping Calgarians get around, a new train line will let people to see a different side of their town.

  • Construction of this portion of the Green Line will affect some homeless people and wildlife.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

Shepard to Quarry Park

The future Shepard station and LRT storage/maintenance facility will be built in the middle of an empty field.

There's some shopping across the street but nobody lives near by.

From the end of the line station, the Green Line will head toward Deerfoot Trail.

It will wrap around two sides of the First Alliance Church.

A senior associate pastor at the church, Les Bon-Bernard, says the Green Line should help ease traffic congestion that comes with services and events at First Alliance.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

It's at the end of a cul-de-sac now, but having a CTrain station nearby and some new roads going in for the Shepard LRT storage facility will help improve access to the church for its large congregation.

Bon-Bernard said the church is well insulated and has no current problems with traffic noise from Deerfoot Trail.

But no one's really sure what to expect once the construction starts.

"Obviously, there's room for dialogue and talking about the impacts. But again, we really don't know what those are going to be at this point so we're just waiting like everybody else to see how things unfold," he said.

Heading north, the Green Line will drop into a tunnel that goes under Barlow Trail.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

It emerges behind a bunch of commercial businesses along 114th Avenue to the future station at Douglasdale where a park and ride lot is already well used by bus commuters.

From there, the Green Line squeezes between more offices and businesses to run northwards along 24th Street toward the Quarry Park station, next to a large campus of office buildings.

Quarry Park to Ogden and the Bow River

From Quarry Park, the Green Line crosses a field and passes by two trailer parks. In the 2020s, South Hill station is where we'll see the CTrain join the CPR right of way.

There are a couple of businesses near-by but otherwise, this currently looks like a bizarre place for a CTrain stop.

In fact, it's where I spotted a deer munching on some grass. But the city has big plans for future transit oriented development here.

A short distance away, the LRT will pass under Glenmore Trail.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

The city built a bridge a few years ago to carry traffic on Glenmore over Ogden Road but also over the CPR line, the irrigation canal as well as the future Green Line.

It's in the Green Line space where I found the first homeless camp of the walk.

From there, the line heads down a hill into Ogden.

The Green Line will literally back onto a few dozen homes in Ogden before stopping at a new station at 72nd Avenue. People here are used to freight trains noisily passing through.

The president of the Millican Ogden community association, Rick Smith, said building the Green Line here will cause some disruption but it will be worth it in the end.

"The people who really need this train are the people in the extreme south but to get the train from downtown to them has to come through here and we just have to accept that," said Smith.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

From here, the train line will duck into a tunnel under Ogden Road.

Smith said there's no word yet on how much of a disruption that will be for the community.

"The detail of a closure or a detour has not been any part of the conversation at this point," he said.

Coming out of the tunnel, there will be a station at Lynnwood where there will be a park and ride lot.

From there, the Green Line turns a corner and heads westward to join a CN right of way.

More deer and more homeless camps were visible in the wooded area between the CN line and the top of Lynnview Ridge.

The LRT line will take a new bridge across the Bow River and Deerfoot Trail to land in another industrial area.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

Bow River to Victoria Park

Across the river, I picked up the trail of the Green Line on 46th Avenue. From here, the walk again takes you northward along a CN right of way.

I encountered a number of homeless encampments in the trees and bushes that line much of this section of the alignment.

At one point, I spotted the wrecked remains of some of Calgary's oldest LRT cars in a local scrap yard.

Scott Dippel/CBC
Scott Dippel/CBC

It's a bit ironic to see the old cars being demolished just steps away from where a new LRT line will run.

Two landfills have been cleared out by the future Highfield station near Ogden Road. Besides the homeless, no one lives within several kilometres of this station in a highly-industrialized area.

Heading north, the Green Line will run through a short tunnel under a CN spur line and then cross Blackfoot Trail to an elevated stop at the Crossroads Market, near 26th Avenue.

From here the trains will do an elevated S curve and stop at the Inglewood/Ramsay station that will be above 11th Street.

The Green Line will run between the busy CPR mainline and houses in Ramsay before crossing a new bridge over the Elbow river to reach the Beltline.

A new station on 4th Street could be just a two block walk to the new arena in Victoria Park.

For now, the question remains: How will the city get the Green Line through the core to it reaches the potential customers who live north of the Bow River?

The answer will come in the next few months.

But after walking the bulk of the Green Line, I'll say that I'd rather ride the CTrain than go for another stroll.