Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has been busy writing and sending out mandate letters to her newly-appointed ministers, but on Tuesday she sent a letter to Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek as well, with a pitch about an expansion of Calgary's LRT system.
Smith published the letter to Mayor Gondek on Twitter, saying that she'd like to work together on an expansion of Calgary's Light-Rail Transit (LRT) system to Calgary International Airport (YYC).
"As YYC continues to increase in size and economic importance, the number of domestic and international flights and passenger traffic to and through the airport will also continue to grow," Premier Smith said. "In my view, a direct link between YYC and downtown via the CTrain network should be a transportation priority for both of our governments."
Smith said she is very pleased with the City's existing expansion plans -- such as the Green Line LRT project -- and wants the city to continue to grow as Calgary and Alberta sees more interprovincial migration, something the Province is explicitly encouraging.
"Calgary is a critical provincial hub for energy, technology and financial excellence in Alberta and is a key focus of the Government of Alberta’s work to grow and diversify our province’s economy," she said. "People from all over the world continue to vote with their feet and are moving to Calgary, where they can find a job, an affordable home, a high quality of life and, of course, proximity to our breathtaking mountain parks."
In the same letter, the Premier also pitched the idea of an entirely new rail line that would connect Calgary with the Banff and Canmore area, near the border between Alberta and British Columbia, saying that such a line would benefit Calgarians, Albertans, as well as visitors to the province.
"It would also significantly boost international and domestic tourism while improving road safety and reducing strain on Highway 1 between Calgary and Banff as population growth and tourist traffic continue to grow," Smith said. "Calgary is a world-class city; it should be connected to our province’s world-class parks."
Details for both potential projects and what they could look like were not provided, but Premier Smith did mention the possibility of working with the private industry on the Calgary-Banff project, and also noted the environmental benefits of using hydrogen-powered locomotives.
"I look forward to working with Mayor Gondek in the coming weeks to discuss our mutual goal of ensuring Calgary continues to be a world-class city to live, work, visit and raise a family, including exploration of the above initiatives to improve the lives of Calgarians."
Responding in a Facebook post to Smith's letter, Mayor Gondek said that the Premier's letter "is a clear signal that the Province is interested in strong public transit and transportation options" and that it's great news for Calgary.
Gondek also noted that the idea of an LRT connection to YYC has been broached previously -- "something we have talked about many times," she said -- since the RouteAhead Transit Strategy was passed a decade ago. That Strategy laid out a 30-year planning and investing vision for transit in Calgary. A 10-year update on the Strategy is expected before the end of the year.