Ring Road Update June 2014

The Provincial Government today released the functional design plans for the West and Southwest Calgary Ring Road project. Starting at the Bow river crossing of Stoney trail NW and heading south to Macleod trail at Highway 22x via the Tsuu T’ina reserve, this last section of the ring road measures 31km, contains 66 bridges, 20 interchanges and several crossings of the Bow river, the Elbow river and the Fish creek. A full breakdown of the details can be found here, or at the Alberta Transportation website here.

W&SW_Ring_Road

Though the new release contains little new information on the physical road itself, one of the major changes announced involves the staging of construction. While the Province and the Tsuu T’ina are still awaiting the Federal Government to approve the land transfer that was agreed upon last year, the Province has stated that rather than build the West leg first, as was previously announced, the Southwest leg of the road would be the first to start construction. The timelines are currently unchanged from earlier estimates, and it is hoped by the Province to have a contractor awarded and construction begun in 2016.

Other key points:

• 80,000-100,000 cars are projected to use certain sections of the road.

• Data from the 2013 flood is being used to evaluate the bridge designs, to ensure they will “accommodate future flooding events of a similar magnitude”.

• A P3 financing model is still being evaluated, and a decision will be made upon the completion of a business case advocating for or against such a model.

• 2 million cubic metres of rock and 5 million cubic metres of dirt will be moved to create a path for the road up the Paskapoo Slopes, beside Canada Olympic Park.

• According to the most recent available plans from 2008, The Elbow river valley at the Weaselhead will be filled from the current width of about 1000 metres wide down to 90 metres wide, with the remaining gap to be bridged. The fill height and road will range from between 5 to 15 metres (16 to 50 feet) above the current valley floor.

• An environmental assessment by the Province is reportedly underway, either in addition to, or as a continuation of, the environmental assessment begun in 2006.

• Public information sessions are planned for the fall or early winter of 2014.

Maps of the West Calgary Ring Road (from North to South)

Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway), Valley Ridge blvd NW, and the twinning of the existing Stoney Trail bridge over the Bow river:

11_WCRR_TCH_VRidge_small

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90th Avenue and the Southwest Ring Road

First appearing on plans together nearly 60 years ago, and shown as connected in every major road plan since, 90th avenue SW and the Southwest Calgary Ring Road have a long and inseparable history. The connection of these two roads together, initially planned out of convenience, and later out of necessity, continues to play a significant role in the history of the ring road. Calls to keep 90th avenue from being connected to the ring road have been heard in recent years, and it is important to understand the history of this road, and why the connection of 90th avenue is seen as an indispensable part of the ring road plan.

The Origins of 90th Avenue SW

1953_90th

90th avenue is an arterial road in Calgary’s southwest, south of the Glenmore Reservoir, that has existed in some form or another since the early days of the City. Early settlers in the region traveled its path to access their land, and by the early 20th century, a dirt road had been created which served a small number of homesteads in the area. This arrangement, pictured above in 1953, went largely unchanged for many years. When the foreseeable encroachment of an expanding City of Calgary finally necessitated it, bigger plans for the road were initiated.

Forward Planning and a Growing City

In the early to mid 1950s the City had begun to more fully embrace a civic planning program; one that was more forward looking than had been undertaken in decades. The City was creating plans for areas that were then rural, but would one day be developed as part of a rapidly-growing City. The earliest modern plan for 90th avenue can be traced back to 1956 when the City created a masterplan for the development of parks around the Glenmore Reservoir (shown below). These plans also contained the first ever public plan for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road.

Glennore_1956Then called ‘South Glenmore Drive’, 90th avenue was depicted much as we know it today, running from 14th street SW to 37th street SW, where it connected to the ring road. This basic layout was retained in Calgary’s first approved transportation plan, 1959’s Calgary Metropolitan Transportation Plan (shown below as 92nd avenue).

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From No to Maybe: The turning point for the SW Ring Road, part 2

This article follows on from the previous article, From No to Maybe: The turning point for the SW Ring Road, part 1.

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By the close of the 1970s, the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the City of Calgary seemed to be at an impasse regarding the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (or the Sarcee Trail Extension, as it was then known). Though generally indicating resistance to the idea of allowing a road through the reserve, the Nation nonetheless had been willing to continue to engage with the City in discussions, noting that any chance of success hinged on the Nation deriving certain benefits from the road. The City meanwhile had seemingly made it clear that they were not prepared to entertain certain requests of the Nation, particularly access from the ring road to potential developments on the reserve, and the extension of City utilities to those developments.

1984_reserve_view

At the same time, and in a seemingly contradictory move, the City had begun to limit itself from building the road along a route through the Weaselhead area within the City limits, thus ensuring that it needed to acquire land from the Nation in order to build the road. Though conditions to this point had not yet been right for progress, both parties seemed to be heading towards a middle ground, and information and cooperation were the last hurdles to clear before the story of the ring road could move forward. Continue reading

Ring Road Update March 2014

The recent release of the 2014 Provincial Budget brought with it some new details regarding the funding of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. In addition, the Province has released some initial timing and staging details regarding the implementation of the road, including the possible division of the road into two separate construction projects.

ringroad_march_2014

The Budget and the $5 Billion Price Tag

Released on March 6, the 2014 Alberta Budget sets aside $2.698 billion towards both Calgary and Edmonton’s ring road projects over the next three years. Of this, Finance Minister Doug Horner noted that $1.8 billion is to be dedicated to the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. In an address on March 7 to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Minister Horner reportedly stated that the full construction of the remaining portion of Calgary’s ring road would cost around $5 billion. The decision to deliver the project via traditional delivery or through Public Private Partnerships has yet to be made, and the Province is currently “investigating the viability of delivering the final segment of Calgary’s ring road in two separate projects using the Public Private Partnership (P3) procurement process” Continue reading

From No to Maybe: The turning point for the SW Ring Road, part 1

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.

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The West Calgary Ring Road

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

1956-2009_west_ring_road

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 street SW 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

A Brief History of the Southeast Calgary Ring Road

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.

1955-2013_SE(A progression of bypass proposals for East Calgary is shown above)

Early Bypasses

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.

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Southwest Ring Road Deal Accepted by Tsuu T’ina Nation

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 the 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.

Why plan a road through the Tsuu T’ina reserve?

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.

1952_major

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

The Ring Road System – The Provincial Road (2001 to 2012)

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.

futureringroad

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