Lakeview and the Ring Road

The picture below shows the Lakeview area in 1951, comprising forest and farmland.

Much has been said about the impacts on the reservoir and the Weaselhead with respect to a ring road crossing, but in this article, I want to focus on the impacts to the community of Lakeview. In recent years, Lakeview seems to have become the focus on southwest ring road issues in the city. Given its location directly adjacent to the Tsuu T’ina reserve, it’s unsurprising, but this wasn’t always the case. When Lakeview was built, the community was not adjacent to the Tsuu T’ina reserve, and was in fact more than 1.5 kilometres from the city limits. it remained that way until the early 1990s.

City Limits

When Lakeview was planned and constructed (throughout the 1960s), the area to the west of 37th street SW was owned by the Canadian Military and used as a training facility, known progressively as Sarcee Camp, Sarcee Barracks and Harvey Barracks. This 940 acre parcel of land was originally part of the Tsuu T’ina reserve, but along with the Weaselhead, it was surrendered by the Nation in 1913 (Much more on this in here).

That land was used almost continuously for military operations from 1910 until the barracks closed in 1996. In 1952 the Military purchased the land outright, and it was formally annexed by the City of Calgary in 1956, making it legally a part of Calgary. It wasn’t until the return of the land to the Nation in 1992, and the de-annexation by the city in 1993, that 37th street SW in Lakeview once again became the City limits; the boundary between the City of Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.

What all of this means is that while 37th street SW in Lakeview is currently the city boundary, and it is now the ‘last available place’ to build a North-South connector road within city limits, that was not the case when Lakeview was planned and built.

All official transportation plans for the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta, starting with the 1959 Calgary Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, have identified Sarcee Trail as the most westerly north-south road in Calgary. Every official plan shows the road as originating at the intersection of Sarcee Trail and Glenmore Trail in the north, and eventually joining up with the 37th street corridor south of the reservoir. Despite this, many commentators have stated that City planners were remiss in their duties to allow Lakevew to be built up to 37th street SW with no allowance for a future roadway, ignoring the fact that when Lakeview was built 37th street was not the edge of the city. There is also the misconception, even among some professional journalists, that even without land being set aside for a major roadway, it was always the plan to have the ring road built on 37th street SW north of the reservoir, and that houses on the west-side of Lakeview were built on the understanding that they were to be demolished once a road was needed. Of course, this is untrue, as no official plans have ever approved an expressway along 37th street, and no properties in Lakeview have caveats on their titles in regards to road development. (For more context about 37th street in Lakeview, see this article)

PLAN ‘B’

On November 27 2009, following the Tsuu T’ina’s rejection of the 2009 ring road agreement, the City and the Province signed a memorandum of understanding to study a Plan B; to plan a ring road along 37th street from Highway 22x to Glenmore Trail. The scope of the proposed study was eventually widened to look at several potential corridors, not just 37th street SW.

From a Lakeview perspective, all five of the presented Plan B routes present challenges to the community. However Route 4, the one that utilizes 37th street for the ring road, appears to be the most damaging. (I focus on Route 4 as it is generally considered to be the most favoured of the presented options. It was also the original route of the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding, and the route originally touted as the only alternative to a Tsuu T’ina route.) For a full look at the Plan B, click here.

500 homes demolished?

Since 2009, when the prospect of a 37th street SW ring road became a more distinct possibility, there have been estimates of the impact a ring road would have on Lakeview and Glamorgan, the two communities most affected by this possible alignment. Some commentators have estimated that somewhere in the region of 500 homes could be demolished for the road (and there are some estimates that are even higher).

Critics of this figure have looked to Google maps, counted the houses on 37th street SW in Lakeview, come up with a number of about 69 houses, and then question how the road could possibly require an additional 431 homes. Counting roofs on 37th street ignores the fact that the road has many duplexes, which of course contains two units under each roof, thus putting the true number of homes on 37th at 105. (Surprisingly, the City of Calgary seems to have made the same mistake in 2002 when assessing a 37th street connector in their Glenmore Trail study). This is in addition to the two apartment buildings directly adjacent to 37th street, and the 66 units they contain.

It also ignores the 28 or so houses, 4 four-plex buildings, the long-term hospice with numerous long-term beds, and the 17 retirement homes in Glamorgan directly in-line with a widened Glenmore Trail, which would be needed to accommodate a 37th street freeway.

Of course those rough numbers, in the 230+ region, only takes into account a straight-line corridor for a road. It ignores one important and land-hungry piece of infrastructure: an interchange needed to merge three major roadways (Glenmore Trail, the ring road and 37th street), and the turning radius required for making the 90-degree turn from the Glenmore Trail corridor to the 37th street corridor.

Glenmore Trail/37th Street/Ring Road interchange

Roads of this kind cannot turn on a dime: they need room to make a gradual turn when driving at speed. The higher the speed of a road, the larger the interchanges and the turns will be, and a 37th street ring road would be no different. The precise number of houses required to accommodate a full systems interchange in this location is unknown as no detailed diagrams have been made public as part of the Plan B planning. However, just because we do not know which specific houses might be needed, that does not mean we cannot be certain that a large number of houses would be needed.

The Plan ‘B’ presentation did not provide much detail in the way of how the road would be designed; it was only an alignment proposal, not a functional road design. However, even in their most basic diagrams, such as the one above, the 37th street alignment still included a turning radius. While no conclusions can be drawn from this alone, it is a reminder that many more houses would be needed than a quick-glance at a map might indicate.

The design specifications for the ring road originally required at least a 600 metre diameter curvature, to maintain a 110km/h speed. If we assume a 75 metre right of way (which is actually smaller than the stated requirement), the diagram above can help to illustrate a potential impact of an interchange and turning radius in the community of Lakeview and, by extension, Glamorgan.

PLEASE NOTE: this diagram simply illustrates the size of a 600 metre diameter curve, consistent with a 110km/h freeway. This diagram is not official, and it does not represent any actual plans created or released by the Province. Also keep in mind that the Province had mentioned that it would be prepared to make exceptions to this design standard, though it had not offered any details about design speeds apart from 110km/h. There have been several comments by the City and Province that the speeds would be lowered in more urban areas to allow for infrastructure to have a smaller footprint. This diagram is only shown to illustrate why some commentators have been alarmed at the thought of a 110km/h freeway being built through an established community, and why estimates of houses required to build such a road have at times exceeded 500 homes.

In 2002, the City of Calgary prepared its Glenmore Trail study, and one portion dealt with the possibility of a 37th street SW freeway. The diagram above gives a sense of what an 80km/h interchange might do to the area. This design, according to the City of Calgary, would require 75 properties in Lakeview and 34 properties in Glamorgan, plus 17 apartment buildings, totaling 482 ‘dwelling units’. (However, there are 105 homes along 37th street alone, so I suspect that the City may have counted duplex pairs as a single property. Accounting for this discrepancy gives a figure of 518 units.) In regards to a 37th street freeway, a senior City traffic official is quoted in 2002 as saying “Crossing the Weaselhead isn’t the problem. The problem is at 37th street and Glenmore. We can build a pretty bridge, but we haven’t protected any land at the intersection.”

So, is the figure of 500 homes realistic? In short: Yes. If the City of Calgary’s own numbers put the total number of homes needed for an 80km/h road in the 500 range, then I am inclined to believe them, especially with a road diagram to back it up. If the province was intent on maintaining a 110km/h design speed throughout the entire road, then the figures would certainly be even higher than that.

Social effects of the road for Lakeview

The issue of losing houses in Lakeview is a real and important one, but the effect of losing residents is no less important. Currently the area has three active schools, four churches, a retail plaza with a bank, pharmacy, gas station and supermarket, among other stores. These amenities rely on a certain population using their services, and if too much of Lakeview is demolished, and if the population of the area is significantly reduced, then there is a real possibility of a decline of these facilities and local services. While this might be worst-case scenario, if the community lost 10-20% of its housing and population, there is a concern that the viability of some of these important aspects of Lakeview could be in jeopardy.

In addition, the 2002 Glenmore Trail study shows only the Crowchild Trail access being maintained, with the current 37th street exit incompatible with the alternative road layout as shown. This could leave an area of more than 6000 people (plus the three schools, four churches, multiple businesses and two of Calgary’s largest parks) reliant on a single road into and out of the community. While the 2002 study is not a functional plan, it raises questions about how access would be provided, and if there was any way to maintain multiple access points to Lakeview in the face of a limited-access freeway.

This is, of course, to say nothing of the impact an 8-lane highway would have on a community that was previously one of the quietest in the city. Many of the houses that are left would be far closer to the road than in any other part of the Calgary ring road system. Where other areas of the ring road have left hundreds of feet as a buffer, it is likely that in Lakeview the road would be perhaps no more than a few dozen feet from some of the remaining houses. With no full designs of this road available, it is impossible to say with certainty the precise distance that houses will be to a freeway. However, recent expropriations involving major infrastructure in Calgary have left some properties within 100 feet of a major roadway, where the the rest of the ring road system is usually between 250-600 feet.

Lakeview’s Future?

As with everything regarding the ring road, any plans for Lakeview are currently on hold. If the Tsuu T’ina accept a road on their land, then Lakeview will not require a single house to be demolished for road works, even with a reworked 37th street/Glenmore Trail interchange. If the negotiations are unsuccessful again, then Lakeview may still be under consideration as part of any future plans to solve traffic issues in Calgary’s southwest. It will ultimately be up to the Province and the City to decide if it’s worth building a freeway through Lakeview, or if there are any other alternatives that can be explored to roadbuilding.

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