But City Council raises concerns about airport traffic and noise
City councilors breathed a sigh of relief Mar. 18 when Garth Atkinson, president and CEO of the Calgary Airport Authority, gave a report summarizing the progress of the Calgary International Airport expansion in 2012.
The construction project that includes building a new runway and international terminal broke ground in 2011 and was expected to cost $2 billion in total.
Atkinson was pleased to announce that everything is "on time and on budget."
Slated for opening in May 2013, the new runway will be Canada's longest at 14,000 feet and will be capable of handling the world's largest aircraft.
The presentation also highlighted the new terminal that is expected to open in Oct. 2015. With its wall of windows and a 300-room hotel, the facility is will add another 22 international gates for airlines.
Atkinson said the new runway and terminal came from a recent need for airport expansion.
"We've been suffering some capacity constraints certainly in the last two years."
When the new runway and terminal open, Atkinson said he estimates that there won't be a huge spike in passenger traffic. Instead, he said this project is aimed at creating more capacity over the span of the next 20 to 30 years.
"We're certainly enabling future growth to take place," Atkinson said. "What we would be seeing is an emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity."
While the economic benefits of the expansion were obvious to councilors in the meeting, concerns around traffic, noise and transit opportunities were raised in a lengthy question period after the presentation.
Ward 3 Ald. Jim Stevenson was the first to comment about traffic in the area, suggesting routes should be connected to Stoney Trail. The current plan is to lead traffic from the airport through Airport Trail and a tunnel out to Barlow and Deerfoot.
"There would be a significant release of congestion around the airport if we allow the traffic to go east out of the airport and out of the way, right through to the east freeway," Stevenson said.
Atkinson said that this is something that the airport authority has thought about in the past, agreeing that there is a concern with traffic.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi added, "I think that there is a good solution here and I look forward to finding it."
Ward 9 Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra said he was pleased that they will be working to address the transportation issue. However, he questioned the Calgary Airport Authority's priorities, and if a rapid-transit solution was on the top of its list.
"I think I speak for a lot of Calgarians when I say that we'd like to see that become front and centre in your planning as soon as possible," Ald. Carra said.
Ward 10 Ald. Andre Chabot brought up the concern about the noise that will be increased by the new runway, pointing out that it may affect members of nearby communities.
Chabot wanted to make sure that the Calgary Airport Authority would be talking to members of nearby communities to address any concerns.
"You need to get engaged with the community and at least let them know that there is an opportunity for them to report issues, if nothing else," Chabot said.
Atkinson said: "We're certainly going to go out and talk to the affected communities and try to create that awareness. We can't escape the fact that there will be new aircraft over the areas of the city that were largely not previously affected."
"It's an intensive year," Atkinson said of the year ahead. "Construction continues. There's a tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done."
- By LISA TAYLOR & TANIS BROWN