Calgary may get toll roads

Cars pass by along Macleod Trail just east of Chinook Centre Saturday, September 15, 2012.
CARL BR JOHNSON, The Press

Toll roads may become a part of Calgary’s transportation landscape to help raise funds, says Calgary’s Transportation GM Mac Logan.

“We need to implement a user-pay system to increase our funding,” Logan said in an interview Sept. 15, at a public information session on transportation at Chinook Centre.

“If we do a toll road system, we’d have to be careful because we don’t want the money gained to only fund the toll system itself.  We would have to organize it so it actually give us a measureable gain for the entire transportation department.”

He re-iterated that a toll road system, if implemented, would most likely be in service for Calgary roadways such as Stoney Trail or Deerfoot Trail.

Logan and his staff have been trotting around the city from mall to mall touting their Route Ahead transportation program.

With this program they have been outlining their department’s gains for Calgarians as well as some of its potential future losses.

Future losses will include a significant drop in funding from the province for Calgary’s Transportation division, specifically from 2013 to 2022 which Logan refers to as the “drop of doom.”

This shortfall will amount to a staggering $200 million.

“I need to be the rain-maker for this department,” said Logan.

“I need to get the cash for my staff so they can start designing and building transportation advantages for Calgarians.  The $200 million shortfall in 2013 to 2022 has to be filled in somehow and without additional funding from the province, we’ll barely be able to make our maintenance costs; let alone funding new projects.”

Alberta’s Minister of Transportation Ric McIver  said, “The budget time line for Calgary in 2013 to 2022 is as yet undetermined.”

“We calculate the various transportation grants for Alberta’s municipalities on a three year rolling budget; so there may be more funding for Calgary, or there may not be.  It’s all based on Alberta’s future revenue stream.”

Logan said that the fuel tax system that has been in place since 1997 hasn’t kept up with inflation and needs to be increased.

In his opinion, a considerable increase in that tax is needed but that system is controlled by the province.

“The five-cent-per-litre fuel tax was introduced in ’97 and it hasn’t changed,” he said.

“As a result, that five cents isn’t worth as much in today’s dollars, so in my opinion, it should be much higher.  Unfortunately the fuel tax system is controlled by the province; we have no control over that.”

“Premier Redford’s election platform has stated that there will be no new taxes for Albertans,” said McIver.

Logan says that his department has $2.5 billion to spend until 2013 before his department starts to feel the pinch when the province cuts off Calgary’s major funding.

With that pinch will come a delay in some much needed capital projects which Logan says will be next to impossible without a renewed source of funds; specifically for the south-east LRT line.

“The southeast LRT line is, at this point, way off in the distance without a major increase in funds.  Right now we can only afford to plan the route, to say nothing of appropriating the necessary land or actually building it.”

He said that the projected cost of the southeast LRT line megaproject is almost $3 billion.

To put that figure into perspective, the entire city of Calgary’s operating budget is approx. $3 billion.

If the go ahead is given, it will be Calgary’s single most expensive public works project in its history.

About Carl Johnson 12 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Carl Johnson worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.