The government of Alberta is exploring the feasibility of building a rail line between the Calgary International Airport and the town of Banff.
“The Alberta government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to assess the feasibility of a new passenger rail service between Calgary and Banff,” the government said in a release Tuesday afternoon.
The cost of the feasibility study will be paid for by the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
The government said Banff National Park attracts about four million visitors a year with about 23,000 vehicles travelling Hwy. 1 in both directions at the Banff National Park gates every day.
In February 2019, it was reported such a rail service was feasible and it would cost $660 million to build.
A study — which was commissioned by the towns of Banff, Canmore and Cochrane, as well as the City of Calgary and Improvement District 9 — examined mass transit as a way to reduce vehicle congestion along the Bow Valley corridor and in the national park.
The study said a passenger rail service could have eight round trips per day and transport between 220,000 and 620,000 passengers per year.
The study said the train could make stops in downtown Calgary, adjacent to the planned Green Line CTrain stop at 9 Ave. S.E. and 4 St. S.W.; at Keith Yard, near the overpass of Stoney Trail N.W. along Bearspaw Dam Rd. N.W.; and in Cochrane, Canmore and Banff.
“The growing number of visitors to the area is increasing traffic congestion on highways and local roads,” said the government release Tuesday.
“Our government is creating an environment where investors and job creators can succeed in Alberta. We are pleased to be partnering with the CIB to complete a feasibility study for the Calgary-Banff Rail project. The CIB brings expertise and experience that is needed for a project of this scale. We look forward to learning more about this exciting project and hearing from our community partners about how this opportunity can support our tourism industry and get our economy back on track,”said Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver.
Michael Sabia, board chair, Canada Infrastructure Bank, said: “We are pleased to be building a strong partnership with the Government of Alberta. An important part of the CIB’s role is to work closely with governments across Canada to advance new infrastructure opportunities. The Calgary-Banff Rail project is the first of many potential projects for the CIB in Alberta.”
Tanya Fir, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, said: “We were elected with a platform commitment to double the size of our tourism industry, and this type of project is the type of bold and innovative strategic thinking that we need to consider if we want to properly show off Alberta’s majestic landscapes and scenery. We know that Alberta’s tourism industry is world-class, and we will build it to new heights.”
Area politicians also welcomed the proposal.
“I have been a huge advocate for this project within our government since being elected last spring. The potential for a beautiful passenger rail service running through the Rocky Mountains poses a tremendous opportunity to attract international visitors and grow our tourism economy here in Alberta and is an opportunity I am extremely excited about,:” saidMiranda Rosin,MLA, for Banff-Kananaskis.
“At a time in our history when many tourism economies have been effectively devastated by COVID-19 travel restrictions, I believe there is no better time to consider this strategic investment in our tourism industry and give hope to our industry operators than right now.
“Today’s announcement serves as a vote of confidence from our government that we support Alberta’s world-class tourism industry and are committed to helping it grow to its full potential over the course of our governance.”
The CIB uses federal funding to attract private sector and institutional investment into revenue-generating projects that are in the public interest.
In 2017, Alberta saw $8.9 billion in tourism expenditures – an increase offive per cent from the previous yearwith a total of 36.9 million person-visits – an increase of 6.1 per cent from the previous year
Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard