The Ring Road System – Initial Outlines (1956 to 1970)

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.

Click here for my summary of the earliest origins of the SW Ring Road (1953-1963).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 “The Ring Road System – Initial Outlines (1956 to 1970)”

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Midnapore

Home to over 75,000 calgary residents, the development area of Midnapore (not to be confused with the singular community of Midnapore) has become an integral part of the story of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road. Hemmed in by several geographic and political obstacles, transportation in the area has been problematic, and has always been at the forefront of planning. Despite early efforts to ensure that the area developed within the means of the transportation system in the area, this considered planning has been recently ignored, and housing development has been allowed to surpass the capacity of the road network. The pressure on (and the occasional failure of) the transportation network has prompted increasing calls for new links to the area, specifically the ring road.

The area of Midnapore is defined by Fish Creek provincial park to the North and East, Highway 22x to the South, and 37th street SW to the West.

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Ric McIver

On April 23 2012, Ric McIver was elected as MLA to represent the Provincial riding of Calgary-Hays, and on May 8, he was appointed by Premiere Alison Redford to the position of Transportation Minister. As Transportation Minister, he will be in charge of the direction and decision-making involved in the southwest portion of the Calgary ring road. His well-known stance of supporting a road through the Weaselhead along 37th street SW has caused concern for some Calgary residents who are intent on preserving that natural area. However, this stance is not quite as straight-forward as it might seem.

Despite being a rookie MLA, Ric McIver has a great deal of experience with the ring road issue, having served as Calgary’s Ward 12 Alderman for 9 years. In that time, he was active in the City’s role in establishing a road in the southwest part of the city.

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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. Continue reading “Lakeview and the Ring Road”

‘Plan B’

In 2009, five years of planning and negotiating for a ring road in Southwest Calgary was voted down by the members of the Tsuu T’ina (more here). When the province walked away from further discussions, they declared the Tsuu T’ina option dead and were anxious to move on; to develop another option entirely within the city of Calgary. This would be called the ‘Plan B’.

On November 27 2009, only five months after the rejection of a Tsuu T’ina alignment, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly explore the 37th street SW corridor for the purposes of building an 8-lane freeway entirely within the city limits. The scope of the MoU was eventually expanded to consider alternative routes to 37th street SW, and the study was meant to conclude in the fourth quarter of 2011 with a proposed route.

Was there really no ‘Plan B’?

When the 2009 deal was initially defeated, then Mayor Dave Bronconier stated that they did not have a Plan B for the City and Province to fall back on.

Every transportation plan since 1959 planned for an extension of Sarcee Trail to become the primary north-south freeway on the west side of Calgary (essentially the ‘Plan A’). Though there have been a few alternatives proposed throughout the years, mainly involving on 37th street SW, these concepts had never been fully explored, and none have ever been approved (you can see these preliminary concepts here).

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37th Street SW, Glenmore Trail to 66th Avenue SW

This is the first of three articles on the role of 37th street in the ring road story. Part two, from 90th avenue SW to Anderson road can be found here, and part three here.

Since it was first paved, 37th street SW in Lakeview north of the reservoir between Glenmore Trail and 66th Avenue SW has been a quiet residential road with a single lane in each direction (and a third for parking on the east side). Its purpose has been to feed into Lakeview, the Married Officer’s housing on the Harvey Barracks, North Glenmore Park and the Weaselhead. Prior to this the road existed as a gravel road, and was a small but important link in a road that served both the Tsuu T’ina reserve and the area of Priddis beyond.

Currently along 37th street SW in Lakeview there are 105 homes (single family and duplex) that occupy the east side of the street, and approximately 45 feet of grass on the west side. At the north end of Lakeview, there are also 2 apartment buildings (comprising 66 units) that directly adjoins the road. While access to the Tsuu T’ina reserve (and previously the Military base) at 37th street has long been in use, in recent years that connection has seen increasing use by the public. The Tsuu T’ina opened a casino near the intersection of 37th street SW and Glenmore Trail in 2007 which is reliant on this connection. While the casino has increased the demand on the road, and the casino expansion will surely increase the demand further, casino traffic is largely contained to the area closest to Glenmore Trail. Continue reading “37th Street SW, Glenmore Trail to 66th Avenue SW”

The Grey Eagle Casino

1996 is the earliest public mention of plans by the Tsuu T’ina to develop a casino, the same year the Harvey Barracks was closed, and a full decade before the land was cleared and returned to the Nation. The original plans called for a casino, hotel and entertainment complex, and on June 30, 2004, the Nation voted to proceed with the Casino portion. Groundbreaking on the 84,000 square foot casino was held September 14 2006, and was open to the public in December 2007. The casino was controversial from the very beginning, especially in regards to access. Continue reading “The Grey Eagle Casino”