The approval of a ring road agreement between the Tsuu T’ina and the Province of Alberta in October of 2013 has opened the door for the long-planned Southwest Calgary Ring Road to be built through what is currently the Tsuu T’ina Nation reserve. By any measure, the vote to accept the deal was overwhelmingly in favour, but the idea of selling reserve land for the freeway has not always been a popular one amongst Nation members.
With a deal now agreed to locate the ring road through the reserve, a once formidable divide between the idea of retaining reserve land and selling it has seemingly been bridged, but what changed? Why has that idea of selling the land, once thoroughly rejected by Tsuu T’ina members and leadership, now been embraced?
Ring Road Planning
Although Calgary had planned for a ring road from as early as the mid-1950s, the early designs would have seen limited, or at times non-existent, incursions into the Tsuu T’ina reserve. Early designs were proposed to be largely located within Calgary’s city limits, and while there have been sporadic discussions between the City and the Nation regarding the acquisition of land for a road, in the early days these talks would appear to be perfunctory.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that more considered thought was given to planning the Southwest Calgary Ring Road through the Tsuu T’ina reserve in a substantial way.
Though the route of the southwest ring road through the Tsuu T’ina reserve has in recent years garnered the most attention of the unfinished portions of Calgary’s bypass network, there are actually two additional pieces of infrastructure needed to complete the ring. Aside from the south leg, which extends the road to Macleod Trail in the south, there is also the West Calgary Ring Road, defined as the portion of the road that connects the Trans Canada Highway to Highway 8. This is the piece that I will cover here.
Early West Side Planning
The earliest complete plans for a ring road around Calgary, dating from 1956, plotted much of the western leg of the circuit along the 53rd avenue corridor, better known today as Sarcee Trail. While the route to the north and south of this leg would undergo revisions, this western portion would remain largely unchanged for nearly 30 years, and the road would continue to be planned along the Sarcee Trail corridor until the mid 1980s. Continue reading →
The opening of the southeast Calgary ring road in November marked not only the completion of over three years of construction, but also of the fulfillment of a goal first set out by the Province of Alberta nearly 60 years earlier.
(A progression of bypass proposals for East Calgary is shown above)
In the 1950s, when bypass plans were first considered for the Calgary area, the city’s main arterial roads radiated from the core, and the primary bridges over the City’s rivers were largely located downtown. To access the industrial southeast, residents living in the new suburbs of the northwest and southwest would have to drive through or near the increasingly congested core. In order to allow drivers not bound for downtown to bypass central Calgary, and in order to allow long-range travelers to connect between major highways without adding to the congestion of the city, several bypass roads would be proposed that would avoid the city centre. These early bypass plans would include such a facility along the city’s southeastern edge.
Several media outlets are reporting that in a vote held on Thursday, October 24 2013, the Tsuu T’ina Nation voted in favour of accepting a deal to sell and trade reserve land to the Province of Alberta for the Southwest Ring Road. While the results will not be officially announced until midday on Friday, at a press conference to be held by Chief Roy Whitney, the agreement is reported to have been accepted with around 68% of the vote.
The details of the deal have yet to be revealed, though a separate press conference set to be held at 2pm Friday afternoon by Transportation Minister Rick McIver and Premier Alison Redford may contain more information about the agreement. The acceptance of this deal marks a historic agreement between the Province and the Tsuu T’ina Nation, on a project first detailed to the public nearly 60 years ago.
On Friday, November 18 1955 Minister of Highways Gordon Taylor addressed the Calgary Chamber of Commerce at the Palliser Hotel with an update of the highways program for upcoming year. Amongst the talk of highways and interchanges was mention of a bypass road that would connect the Macleod Trail with the still-under-construction Trans Canada Highway. This road had two proposed routes, including an ambitious long-range plan that would have seen the road travel west along Anderson Road, then north across the Elbow River west of the reservoir. While the route would change and the City would grow, the first public seeds of the Southwest Ring Road were sewn on that day.
Much work will be required over the next few years before a Southwest Ring Road is completed, but it would seem that the groundwork has been laid for both the road itself and future developments on the reserve that will follow.
Details about the road design and the agreement will be covered when they are released.
Modern plans have for decades shown the Southwest Calgary Ring Road as traveling through the northeast corner of the Tsuu T’ina reserve. As these plans for the road had utilised land that cannot be guaranteed to be available, many have wondered why the City allowed communities like Lakeview and Glamorgan to grow right up to the city-limits, leaving no room for a ring road. With no corridor protected for this road, some have openly blamed the City for failing to plan ahead, but is this really the case?
Early Road Planning
Although there were early attempts at planning the major roadways in Calgary, notably Thomas Mawson’s plan of 1914 and the City’s 1930 Major Street & Arterial Highway plan, 1952 marked the first modern road plan for the city of which all subsequent plans are indebted. The 1952 plan (below) was the result of a push in 1948 for a masterplan for Calgary, not just for street layout but for all future growth for the city including land-use and zoning.
The explosion of car ownership in the post-war era had compounded congestion in the downtown core of Calgary, and the need to design a road network that would accomodate new traffic and allow drivers to avoid downtown was seen as paramount in allowing for the continuing growth of the city. Although the Major Thoroughfare Plan shows improved bypass roadways that avoid the core of the city, the proposed road network was contained within the city-limits of the time, and no regional bypass routes or ring roads feature in the plan. That state of affairs was soon to change, and beginning the following year, the City began the process of planning a ring road system for Calgary. Continue reading →
This is the fourth and final part of my overview of the Calgary Ring Road project, covering the period from 2000 to the current day. In many ways this is the period that moved the full ring road project from concept to reality. Despite a small portion having been built in the previous decade, work on a high-capacity, free-flowing provincial highway got underway in earnest after the turn of the millennium; work that is still ongoing today. (Click here for Part 1: 1956-1970, here for Part 2 1974-1976, and here for Part 3 1980-2001) As always, click on any of the maps for a larger view.
BECOMING A PROVINCIAL HIGHWAY
In 2000, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta signed an agreement that transfered the control of both the Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail to the Province. Despite the road originating in Provincial plans, and being primarily designed by the Province since the 1970s, the Calgary ring road had to this point been a City road. Continue reading →
This is the third of a four part series on the history of Calgary’s ring road, covering the period when construction of the road first began. While this site continues to focus on the Southwest portion, I wanted to cover the history of the rest of the road, to provide some context to the story. Part one of this series (Initial Outlines) can be found here, and part two (Integrated Planning) can be found here.
After many studies, and many more years of planning, this period marked the first time that physical work on the project was undertaken, and the road was finally becoming a reality. Even with the route of the Transportation Utility Corridor (TUC) being largely set in the 1970s, the path to a finished road was never going to be straightforward. In this period there were (and still are) many issues to resolve, agreements to make, and studies to undertake. Despite the false-starts and the setbacks involved in the business of actually constructing a road, significant progress was made; the ring road went from being a line on a map to the beginnigs of a constructed freeway system that is currently close to being three-quarters finished. Continue reading →
While the City of Calgary, and later the Province of Alberta, had addressed the concept of a ring road network around Calgary before, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the idea was formalised into a singular road plan. (Much more on the early history of the road in part one of this four part series)
1974 CALGARY PARKWAY RING (Province of Alberta)
1974 saw the completion of the first comprehensive report on the Calgary Ring Road, known at this time as the Calgary Parkway Ring, which was produced by the firm of Deleuw Cather Consulting Engineers and Planners, on behalf of the Provincial government. This report not only laid out the route and general design of the road, but it also explored the need for the road itself, and the concept of the road as part of a larger system, integrated with other amenities such as public transportation and parks. Continue reading →
In this series of four articles, I want to look at the history of the entire Calgary ring road system, not just the southwest portion. Though the Calgary Ring Road System we know today (Also currently known as Stoney Trail or Alberta Highway 201) has been largely constructed only in the last decade or so, its origins can be traced back to the 1950s and 1960s.
Ring road plans from 1953-1957 originated the concept of a regional bypass road network, and in 1959 portions of that plan were incorporated and approved in Calgary’s first ever transportation plan. The concept of bypassing the Trans-Canada Highway traffic off of 16th avenue N and onto a more northerly road had been discussed essentially as soon as the Trans-Canada Highway was first routed through the City, and on September 19 1963, Alberta Highways Minister Gordon Taylor announced to a group of North Hill business owners that the Alberta government intended to build a northwest bypass west of Bowness. This section, the northwest bypass, would eventually become the precursor to the first section of the Calgary ring road to be built.
However, these outlines were generally smaller piecemeal solutions to local transportation needs, and the planning had not yet reached the point of being a comprehensive design for a regional highway. That work would begin in the late 1960s, and progress in earnest in the 1970s. Continue reading →