The province will be looking into the feasibility of a province-led Metrolinx-like model for commuter rail service using heavy rail on the Canadian Pacific rail line from Airdrie to Okotoks and the Edmonton International Airport to downtown Edmonton.

In a mandate letter that Premier Danielle Smith sent last week to the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors, Devin Dreeshen, Premier Smith added considerations for the project should also include, 'the use of hydrogen-powered trains.'

"I expect you to work closely with your Cabinet and Caucus colleagues and the public service through the committee, Cabinet and legislative processes to deliver on our election platform commitments, including taking the lead in finalizing a provincial investment of up to $300 million for road and bridge construction, LRT connection, site utilities, site reclamation and other supportive infrastructure to support the development of the new Calgary arena and entertainment district," Smith wrote to Dreeshan.

Smith's reference to the model type the province envisions - Metrolinx - is referring to the Ontario agency. Metrolinx, which was founded in 2006 under the Metrolinx Act, 2006, 'was created to improve the coordination and integration of all modes of transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,' according to its website.

Metrolinx is responsible for the GO Transit system, which serves the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, and the Union Pearson Express to name a few. Metrolinx currently operates over 400 thousand trains and buses in Ontario and has over 20 transit lines. 

However, this isn't the only announcement with regard to feasibility and rail service in the area. Earlier this month, The City of Calgary announced that in partnership with the province, it would be undertaking a study to identify the optimal rail connection and alignment between downtown Calgary and the Calgary International Airport.

According to a press release by The City, The Calgary Airport Rail Connection Study will include a ridership review, development and evaluation of different alignment scenarios and will identify the optimal connection from downtown to the airport.

“It’s important for us to take a comprehensive look at all factors in this technically and physically constrained corridor to establish an optimal functional alignment that will best serve Calgarians, visitors and employees of the airport and surrounding lands,” said Michael Thompson, General Manager of Infrastructure Services. “The study will consider existing rail plans, past City of Calgary transit studies and other opportunities, to help guide future transit planning.”

As part of Budget 2023, $3 million in funding was allocated to The City of Calgary to lead the Calgary Airport Rail Connection Study. An engineering consultant will be recruited to assist with this technical study, which will also include engagement with Canada Infrastructure Bank, the Calgary International Airport, Canadian Pacific Kansas City and various private rail developers who are developing project plans to connect downtown with the airport and the surrounding region.

Premier Smith in her letter to Minister Dreeshan also added that another key area of focus should be to expand and improve major highways and roadways in the greater Edmonton and Calgary areas, including the Anthony Henday Drive and Deerfoot Trail.