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5 Street S.W. Underpass Enhancement

Project update – March 2021

Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists may now pass freely on both sides of the 5h Street underpass.

Upgrades to the 5 Street stormwater lift station, which will help protect the downtown from future flooding, is ongoing until spring 2021.

Work to complete landscaping and install the integrated art pieces will be completed in Summer 2021.

About the project

The 5 Street S.W. underpass offers a direct north-south connection between 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.

The design and construction include a number of improvements:

  • Widen sidewalks to provide more space and improve mobility
  • Upgrade crosswalks to meet current accessibility standards
  • Provide space for trees and vegetation to make the underpass more enjoyable and increase the number of trees within the Centre City
  • Improve lighting and safety measures
  • Make existing cycle track pilot permanent, maintain cycle counter, and improve comfort for people waiting at intersections
  • Narrow the traffic lanes within acceptable standards for vehicles, transit and goods movement
  • Ensure that traffic signals meet current operational standards
  • Make necessary life cycle improvements to the underpass walls and bridge
  • Beautify the appearance of the underpass
  • Remove the concrete median and redistribute the space for people walking trees/vegetation.

Improvements to this underpass, along with other underpasses connecting the downtown core with the Beltline, are part of major infrastructure investments to improve connections into Calgary’s downtown.

It is an important piece of The City’s Downtown Strategy, which supports and incentivizes private investment, generates visits and spending, and provides amenities and services to enhance the quality of life for people living and working in Calgary’s downtown.

Cycle track improvements

Cycling Facility

The new cycle track facility is separated by vertical curb to the adjacent traffic lane. The City’s current design standard does not require delineators in this condition. The cycling facilities are continually reviewed to ensure user safety and will be reviewed if additional delineators are warranted.

Cycling Education

Background on design and public engagement

Since 2018, the project team has worked closely with the public and nearby stakeholders through a public engagement process, to formulate a clear vision and goals for the underpass. Our vision is to transform an ordinary space into an extraordinary experience. This vision is supported by three goals:

  • improve options for travelling around downtown
  • provide safe and comfortable connections
  • improve the look and feel of the current underpass

Check out more of the project’s design and engagement history.

This enhancement project is part of the broader Centre City Underpass Enhancement Program, which aims to improve the pedestrian environment and connections between the Beltline and downtown Calgary, including cleaning up and brightening existing underpasses.

Public Art

Through a Request for Proposal (RFP) in 2017 an artist and design team were hired. The design team (Jill Anholt Studios) developed a concept that greatly improves the 5 Street S.W. underpass, while seamlessly integrating art into the design.

The 5 Street S.W. underpass integrated art design is meant to remind underpass users of the important relationship Calgary has to water, both in the past and present. The underpass serves not only as a connector between the Bow and Elbow Rivers, but also as a rare subterranean experience in the city that can expose pedestrians to the rich geological and hydrological history that exists under Calgary’s visible industrial and infrastructural layers.

This integrated art design was created by (artist name) and is currently being fabricated by a Canadian company. The installation of this piece in the underpass will be complete in Spring 2021.

Stormwater lift station

The City is also replacing the 5 Street S.W. stormwater pump station, as it is at the end of its service life. Construction timelines are being coordinated between underpass enhancements and pump station upgrades to minimize disruption to citizens and businesses during construction.​

Project background

Built in the 1970s, the 5 Street S.W. underpass between 10 and 9 Avenues serves as a main gateway and key corridor for north-south movement between the communities of Beltline and downtown Calgary. Under normal circumstances the underpass' cycle track averages over 1,185 riders each day with as many as 2,500 riders during peak days, while more than 6,500 people walk through the underpass.

The site is unique due to its historical context of the site pre-settlement, the significance of the railway, adjacent land-uses, transportation, and local character.​

5 Street S.W. Underpass Enhancements – Video

Watch this video to learn more about this project

Impacts

  • Underpass is open to motorists in both directions
  • The cycle track is open.
  • Sidewalks are open on both the east and west side of the underpass
  • Temporary barriers are in place around the integrated art installations until spring 2021

Project timeline

  • 2018 - 2019: public engagement - COMPLETED
  • 2019 - 2020: final design - COMPLETED
  • Summer 2020: construction begins - UNDERWAY
  • Fall 2020: Underpass enhancements – COMPLETED
  • Spring 2021: Completion of project landscaping, installation of integrated art pieces as well as completion of lift station upgrades

Budget

$7.85 million


Communications

As the project moves forward, we will provide updates about this project through this webpage. If you would like more information, please contact 311.