Centre City Underpass Enhancement Program
Calgary’s downtown underpasses connect the communities of Beltline and Downtown Calgary. More than 43,000 people live and 161,000 people work in these two areas, where citizens come from all over the city to shop, dine, recreate and gather. These underpasses further support a vibrant downtown by offering necessary connections under the Canadian Pacific Railway line.
Our underpass improvement vision: Transform an ordinary space into an extraordinary experience.
Goals to improve our downtown underpasses
Improve travel around downtown
(mobility and functionality)
- Improve sidewalks, bikeways and crosswalks to make walking and cycling a more enjoyable experience
- Improve connection for people between the Beltline community and Downtown Calgary
- Maintain transit and vehicle connections to continue moving people and goods
- Add wayfinding to help people find what they need
Provide safe and comfortable connections
(safety and social)
- Enhance lighting for people walking
- Improve sight lines
- Allow integration with existing and future developments beside the underpasses
Make a better experience
(design and aesthetic)
- Redesign and repurpose unused space
- Allow for discovery and curiosity through unique elements of art and design
- Incorporate landscaping to "green" our connections
In 2010, Council endorsed the Downtown Underpass Urban Design Guidelines. It promotes a unified vision for all of Calgary’s downtown underpasses. It carefully considers the local context and current state of each underpass area. The City has made significant improvements to several underpasses and plans to improve others moving forward.
Improving the underpasses is part of The City’s Downtown Strategy – . It will encourage private investment, making life better for people living and working downtown.
For all our underpass improvements, we work closely with Canadian Pacific, who owns and maintains the railway line overhead.
Temporary improvements are underway.
These two underpasses connect the Stampede Grounds (and Calgary’s future events centre) and Stephen Avenue. The City made several quick and low-cost improvements to both underpasses in 2019 and 2020. We have plans for permanent improvements in the future.
For the 1 Street S.E. underpass, the City partnered with the Beltline Urban Murals Project (BUMP). Mural artists Lacey and Layla created Be Seen, a walk-through portrait of real people from the community. BUMP funds local artists to paint murals throughout the Beltline.
For Macleod Trail S.E. underpass, The City partnered with artist Michelle Hoogveld to brighten up the underpass and integrate wayfinding elements along the walls using vivid colour and striking geometric design.
Through 2020, The City will continue improving both underpasses for pedestrians. We’re fixing guard rails, resurfacing walkways, improving cleanliness and lighting, and adding wayfinding signs.
Improvements are complete!
Come for a walk downtown and experience the new and improved historical 1 Street S.W. underpass. It’s one of Calgary's two oldest railroad bridges. As the former site of the CPR station, 1 Street S.W. was the heart of the community, where thousands of people arrived and departed from the city. It helped transform Calgary from a small frontier town to a thriving cosmopolitan area.
Improvements are complete!
Come for a walk downtown and experience the new and improved 4 Street S.W. underpass. It includes an interactive LED lighting display, which was co-created by the Marc Boutin Architectural Collaborative (MBAC) and internationally acclaimed artist Krzysztof Wodiczko.
The new design celebrates the underpass’s heritage. It’s a gateway into both the Beltline Community and downtown. With more than 9,500 people walking it every day, it’s is one of the most used underpasses in the city. In 2012, this design won a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence.
Improvements are underway.
The 5 Street S.W. underpass is a popular connection for pedestrians and cyclists. Built in the 1970s, it is a main gateway between the Beltline and Downtown communities. The underpass’s bike lane gets more than 1,185 riders each day and 2,500 riders on peak days. More than 6,500 pedestrians pass under the rail tracks each day.
The project team is is working on the newest improvements in spring 2020.
Improvements area complete!
Come for a walk downtown and experience the new and improved 8 Street S.W. underpass.
A unique public art installation featuring a captivating new work by David Rokeby reflects the heritage character of the underpass. Similar to the curve of a railway crossing, the work stretches over the street from one sidewalk to the other. Messages scroll across the artwork, like watching a train go over a bridge. Some of the messages are railway-related, containing snippets and fragments of Calgary’s past.
Fill out the 311 online form if you have questions or need more information.