In 2007, Forbes magazine rated Calgary as the world’s cleanest city — a remarkable accomplishment for a city founded on oil and gas.
Light rail transit has been an important part of Calgary’s sustainable approach to development. The first line of Calgary’s C-Train opened in 1981, making the system among the first in North America. A second C-Train line was completed in time for the 1988 Olympics, which marked Calgary’s emergence as a vibrant international city. By 2001, the C-Train system was powered by electricity from wind farms in southern Alberta.
In the decade before 2006, Calgary’s population grew by 25%, topping one million. Ridership on the C-Train grew by twice that rate in the same period. By 2009, more than a billion riders had taken the C-Train, which was carrying over 269,600 passengers per day, more than any other light rail system in North America.
Justified by this increased ridership potential, the city proceeded with the construction of a new West Line, an idea first investigated in 1983.
As Owner’s Engineer, HMM, a joint venture of Mott MacDonald and Hatch, was responsible for the preliminary design of all project elements and for developing schedules, cost estimates, contracts, proposals and proposal reviews, and constructability reviews. We were also responsible for public engagement support, risk management, construction monitoring and administration, and quality auditing.
The West LRT includes 8.2 kilometers of track, 10 kilometers of associated pathways, and six new stations, including the system’s first elevated station (Sunalta) and first underground station (Westbrook). The project also includes a new expressway interchange (Sarcee Trail), two park and ride facilities, and a four-story transit-oriented commercial building.
A launching truss was used to erect nearly 1.8 kilometers of elevated guideway structure in one segment of the project, and all stations had a common elliptical cross-section and curvilinear roof lines.
The West Line was the first new line to be added to the C-Train in 25 years. The official opening of the line occurred on schedule in December 2012 and was celebrated by a ten-kilometer-long party that featured a petting zoo, live music, musicians, food, and free hot chocolate.
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said, “This is an exciting day. This is the biggest public works project ever done in Calgary.”
The West LRT line now serves about 105,000 residents of west Calgary, with 44,000 commuters expected to use it each day. Commuters can travel from downtown Calgary to the 69 Street Station in only 18 minutes.
“Delivering this project within 60 months is pretty phenomenal,” said former mayor Dave Bronconnier.
In January 2013, the Consulting Engineers of Alberta awarded the joint venture two Showcase Awards for the Calgary West LRT project, in the categories of Transportation Infrastructure and Project Management.
“The degree of complexity and coordination required on this project is awesome. It is approaching heavy industrial mega-project size and scope,” the judges wrote.
“The use of fast-track delivery of a project of this complexity is impressive. This project confronted numerous significant challenges and redefined them to allow an on-time commitment of service to the public.”
One judge noted, “I like the methods and procedures used. Lessons learned here should be applied across all sectors to make Alberta construction projects cost effective and on time.”
In April 2013, the joint venture was awarded the APEGA Project Achievement Award for the success of the Calgary West Light Rail Transit project. The award, recognizing a substantial contribution to technical progress and the betterment of society, was given by the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGA).
In October 2013, we received an Award of Excellence at the Canadian Consulting Engineers Awards Gala in Ottawa. (See video.) According to the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies - Canada and Canadian Consulting Engineer magazine, which presented the award, "Project success resulted from innovative planning, procurement and construction implementation strategies fostered by an effective team approach."