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City touting high-speed rail stop at downtown station

Alberta’s high-speed rail may be decades away, but the province should be acquiring the right-of-way along the Hwy 2 sooner than later, say Central Alberta leaders.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling will continue to press the provincial government for high-speed rail to be built along the Hwy 2 corridor — even though it’s nowhere in future capital plans.

Flewwelling spoke this fall with Premier Alison Redford on how such a project would be vital for Central Alberta.

He would like to see a stop below the downtown bus terminal known as Sorensen Station.

“We’re consistent with that message because we believe that, while high-speed rail isn’t going to be here tomorrow or the next day, it will one day become a part of Alberta transportation infrastructure,” said Flewwelling.

Government coffers are tight, Flewwelling said, but this shouldn’t preclude planning and thinking about the high-speed rail and private partnerships.

Flewwelling said the province must drive the project along since it’s very expensive and will continue to get more costly.

There’s urgency to acquire right-of-way and to do preliminary planning.

“When Alberta Transportation is looking at the routing of highways around Red Deer and the development of our airport, it’s very much tied to the best use of high-speed rail,” said Flewwelling.

Alberta Transportation spokesman Parker Hogan said that one of the first tasks, once the project gets the go-ahead, is to get the right-of-ways in place.

While high-speed trains may have limited crossings in Europe and elsewhere, in Alberta there’s quite a few so that would have to be considered in where it will be routed, Hogan said.

The fast train is not in any future capital plans, said Hogan.

Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood said he recognizes the province has a lot of “asks” ranging from health care and school needs to other infrastructure projects.

“But I do think there will be a point in time where we do have to garner the right-of-way for that rail line, before someone builds a bunch of development on top of it,” said Wood.

“It might be my great-grandchildren who use it, but if we have to dig under the ground and the costs go up so much, it may not even be feasible then.”

Wood said the project is not on the county’s radar right now, other than it’s important to get the right-of-ways in place.

Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver told a Chamber of Commerce audience in Fort McMurray in September that several people had come to his office saying they would build it if the government has the land.

In 2009, then-Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette predicted a high-speed train was 15 years away from having its first passengers.

The high-speed rail study looked at five station stops along the Hwy 2 corridor — the airports in Calgary and Edmonton, downtown Calgary and Edmonton, and an unidentified stop at Red Deer.

That consultants’ report evaluated four types of trains — from the slower 200-km/h diesel electric train, which would take two hours to travel from Calgary to Edmonton, to the 480 km/h magnetic levitation train, which would deliver passengers to their destination in one hour.

The high-speed rail was estimated to cost $3 billion to $20 billion, according to a 2009 study commissioned by the province.

Other factors to consider include long-term viability and whether there is enough ridership, said Hogan.

ltester@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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