$295 million airport tunnel narrowly approved by city council

The City of Calgary council extended a Feb. 7 meeting past midnight to approve the long debated airport tunnel, at a cost of $295 million.

A lengthy closed-door discussion ended with a narrow 8-7 vote and a council divided over the issue.

The tunnel aims to eventually provide access lost by the closure of Barlow Trail between 48 Ave. and Airport Road NE on Apr. 3 when the airport begins construction on a new 4,270 metre runway.

The runway is part of a massive Calgary International Airport expansion, with an estimated completion date of 2015, which aldermen in favour of the tunnel argued necessitated increased road access.

Though previous councils rejected the tunnel, this approval will, instead of taking funds from current city projects, look to other sources of funding. Council will explore the possibility of creating a toll road and requesting more money from the provincial and federal governments.

About $173 million worth of provincial money earmarked for Calgary infrastructure in 2018 will be directed soley into the project.

The city hopes to discuss the tunnel deal with the airport authority in next few days so it can be incorporated into runway construction and have the tunnel open sometime in 2014. Aldermen, however, state the council decision is not the final word on the project and the financial and logistical issues will determine its outcome.

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