Nov. 4, 2014 – The City of Calgary and Alberta Transportation teamed up to unveil plans for the completion of the Calgary ring road, or Stoney Trail, on Oct. 28.
The open house, which took place in the British House at Spruce Meadows, drew the interest of hundreds of Calgarians and M.D. of Foothills residents.
Many residents do not approve of the development plans, or the way the city and province have chosen to reveal them.
“I’m not sure why we weren’t brought in earlier than this, during the planning stages,” argues Margot Cooke, a resident of Somerset.
“I would have raised my opposition then.
“But instead they’re just telling us the way it is and we can’t do anything about it.”
The plans for finishing Calgary’s ring road were finalized over the past year, after the province successfully struck a deal with the Tsuu T’ina nation to build the freeway west of the city in the Weaselhead natural area.
According to Kamran Mirza, an engineer for Alberta Transportation, the Tsuu T’ina were given $275 million in compensation for their land, an additional $65 million for moving and other expenses, and about 2,150 hectares of property.
“In return, [the province] received the 425 hectares of land we needed for construction,” explains Mirza.
“It was a good deal, and everyone was satisfied in the end.”
But some residents do not agree that the construction of the ring road will be beneficial to their neighbourhoods, and took the opportunity to voice their opinion at the open house.
“It’s taken away the community’s access to the east,” asserts Carl Duddin, an angry resident of Silverado, on the city’s southwest perimetre.
With an exchange being built at Spruce Meadows Way and a major interchange at Macleod Trail, the province could not provide easy access from Silverado, which falls directly between the two overpasses, onto the ring road.
Residents in the community must travel south to 194 Ave.S.W., or north to 162 Ave. S.W., and access the ring road from Macleod Trail.
“I can see it discouraging people from buying there, and affecting house prices in a bad way.
“To me, there are other corridors that could house these roads, and the plans could have gone differently.”
The City of Calgary will be developing and improving many of its roads to allow for easier traffic flow in situations such as the access from Spruce Meadows and Silverado.
Those developments include interchanges within the city limits, such as at Spruce Meadows and Bow Trail, and the widening of Glenmore Trail to six lanes between 37 Ave. S.W. and Crowchild Trail, to accommodate heavy traffic flow.
“In total, the budget and funds that are required for our 11 connections were approved by council in spring 2014 at $130 million as part of the Investing in Mobility program,” discloses Ryan Murray, communications consultant for the city’s transportation department.
“We feel that we’re getting a lot of positive feedback, as a whole, and the project is very exciting.”
Though the city will be responsible for the construction of connecting roads and improvements within its limits, the bulk of the project is province-driven.
“Overall, our high-level cost will be $4 or 5 billion,” reveals Mirza.
“And best-case scenario, we will have everything built and running smoothly by 2020.”
The duration of construction is a major concern for many citizens, primarily those who reside in the M.D. of Foothills and surrounding areas.
“I live in Priddis,” said Phil Wadsworth.
“My primary issue will be during the construction process and the disruption of my travels for work.”
Others are concerned about the re-direction of the Elbow River, just south of Highway 8.
“I don’t think we should be messing with nature and inviting flood issues,” declares Samuel Doerksen, who has resided in Lakeview for more than 20 years.
Provincial authorities assured the public that the “retraining” of the river would not impact the environment or increase the risk of flooding in the area.
“It’s actually being diverted back into an old channel,” said Josh Bolderheij of CH2M Hill, who has been consulting with the province throughout the planning process.
“We’re making sure to add an equal length of river as we fill, and [we intend] to make the transition as seamless as possible for wildlife.
“There should not be any real impact on the environment or the river habitat.”
Despite some disagreement with certain aspects of the plan, most residents attending the open house were pleased with what they saw and recognized the long-term benefits of the ring road construction.
“I think it’s a very necessary program and I totally support it,” expresses Wadsworth.
“- – Even though it will take me longer to get to work for a few years.”