The Origins of the Southwest Ring Road

This article was originally published on April 15 2015. It was updated on March 5 2016 to reflect newly found information about the City’s earliest plans for bypass routes in 1952 and 1953.

The City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta variously point to planning and studies from 1959 or the 1970s as the origin of the Southwest Ring Road.1 While these studies mark important milestones in the history of this road, particularly around planning for the current iteration, the truth is that the concept is a much older one than that.

1953_township

(Township plan of Bowness, Mongomery, and what would eventually become west Calgary, 1953)

Early efforts had been undertaken to plan for roads encircling Calgary’s downtown area, notably the town plan by Thomas Mawson in 1914, though these were not acted upon at the time. It wasn’t until a post-world war two explosion in population growth and vehicle ownership in Calgary had occurred that the issue of bypass roads would again be brought to the fore.

The 11-year period between 1952 and 1963 constitute the practical origin of Calgary’s bypass road system, and would see incredible effort and progress on this issue: from outright rejection, to intensive planning, and finally to construction of Calgary’s first southwest bypass route.

The Earliest Southwest Ring Road Plans

In order to address the rapid growth experienced in the post-war years, the City of Calgary began the process of creating a General Plan for the city in the late 1940s. By 1951, an interim report on the General Plan was produced, which included descriptions of primary roads planned for Calgary. A major route following 50th avenue SW across the Elbow river along the City’s southern edge and 14th street SW heading north across the Bow river2 was noted, and was intended to connect the Macleod and Banff trails and act as a bypass around the City’s core.

This interim report was followed by a preliminary major roads plan that was presented to City Council in the winter of 1952. The plan contained many of the same routes as the earlier General Plan interim report, though the southwest bypass was now envisioned along 24th street SW/Crowchild Trail, rather that 14th street SW, as the north-south portion of the route.3

1952-road-highlight

(A depiction of Calgary’s Major Roads Plan as presented to City Council. Source: Traffic Problem Solution Seen. Nigel Dunn. Calgary Herald. December 19, 1952. Highlight added.)

Although these initial planning efforts focused on routes contained within the City’s limits, plans were simultaneously being prepared on a wider scale; the City’s major road plan was not intended as a final document, but was intended to be continually updated and expanded as conditions demanded.

The City’s planning department had earlier drafted a different map in 1952 that for the first time described the series of planned bypass roads as a ‘Ring Road System’, and indicates, though does not fully depict, a southwest bypass located on 37th street SW.4 This was an internal working document that was not intended for the public, and shows how the City had begun to look outside of it’s city limits at more regional roads.

In late 1953 a further revision was completed, which for the first time fully detailed a Southwest Ring Road route around the west edge of the Glenmore reservoir.Comprising of 90th avenue SW on the south and 53rd street SW/Sarcee Trail on the west, this version of the Southwest Ring Road shares little in common with the modern route, though the use of the Sarcee Trail right-of-way and a crossing through the Weaselhead would remain part of the Southwest Ring Road plans for decades to follow.

1953-highlight

(Source: Untitled Map. December 1953. City of Calgary Corporate Records, Archives. Board of Commissioners S. IV box 189 F. 39.)

By the early 1950s the City had a defined, though extremely fluid, ring road plan. Work on the plan by the City of Calgary would continue for a number of years yet, though putting the scheme into action could not be done by the City alone; implementation would require a partner in the form of the Provincial government.

Continue reading “The Origins of the Southwest Ring Road”

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The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 1: Establishment

Though the Southwest Calgary Ring Road is perhaps the best known Provincial road to be planned through the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve, it is not the first; over a hundred years ago another Provincial road was sought, and built, across the Nation’s land. The story of the Priddis Trail, as the early road was known, may provide some much-needed context with which to view the long negotiations for the ring road project, and perhaps to understand how the legacy of previous land agreements may have influenced the current process.

priddis-trail-2015(Photo of a remnant portion of the Priddis Trail, 2015. Source: Author’s own.)

In this five-part series, I will look at the establishment of the old road through the Tsuut’ina reserve, the use and decline of the route as a public highway, and the problems surrounding the ownership and the handling of the land and the deal. Part Two: The Use of the Road, can be found here while Part 3 can be found here. I acknowledge that the resources that inform this work are largely that of non-First Nations sources, and while this is intended to be a factual look at the history of the road, it must be noted that the perspective is largely non-indigenous. I hope that further research, working with Tsuut’ina sources, will reveal other equally valid perspectives on this story in the future.

THE NEED FOR GOOD ROADS

At the turn of the century, settlers of the Priddis and Millarville areas of southern Alberta relied on well established, though informal and unmaintained, wagon trails in order to access Calgary and other areas and ranches of the region.

Calgary_priddis_reserve_area_new(Map of the Calgary area, showing the Tsuut’ina reserve and the Priddis area. Source: Google Maps.)

The provision of useful roads in the North West Territories was a constant battle for the Government, and many districts in the Territories, including Alberta, chronically suffered from poor or impassable routes. In 1900, the Department of Public Works noted this problem in its annual report:

“…so long as we have earth roads we must expect bad roads during wet seasons, and as the conditions in the Territories will not permit the construction of any other kinds of roads for many years to come it must be understood now that during certain years good roads will be an impossibility.” 1

In the midst of 1899, a notably wet year, local settlers and homesteaders called upon the Government of the North West Territories to improve and maintain a reliable road to the Priddis area. There already existed a well-used old trail between Priddis and Calgary, known locally as the Priddis Trail, or Gunawaspa Tina in Tsuut’ina, and it was this route that the locals wanted improved.2 Much like the case of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, it was an alignment through the Tsuut’ina reserve that was seen by the Government as providing the most efficient route to serve those living south of central Calgary. In this case however, its use was reported to have predated the establishment of the reserve.3

PriddisTrail_1897(A map from 1897 showing the route of the Priddis Trail. Source: “Preliminary map of a portion of the District of Alberta showing Canadian irrigation surveys during 1894″. University of Alberta Libraries, Peel Map 747.)

Crossing the eastern portion of the Tsuut’ina reserve (at that time known as the Sarcee reserve) and leading diagonally from what is now the corner of Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW to a point just north of Priddis, the trail had been in use for many years by early European settlers of the area and Nation members. Like many in the North West Territories, the earthen trail suffered from regular periods of muddy and impassable conditions, and despite warnings that roads may not be improvable in the short-term, the Government had recently begun to prioritize important ‘Colonisation Roads’4 which connected newly settled areas and local market centres. Calls for the trail to be opened and improved as a public highway were heeded.

Continue reading “The Rise and Fall of the Priddis Trail – Part 1: Establishment”

Utility relocation open house

Today, February 24 2015, the Government of Alberta is hosting its latest ring road public information session. The focus will be on the relocation of utilities in preparation of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project.

In addition to Alberta Transportation and the City of Calgary (who will be presenting the City’s proposed ring road connections and the 37th street SW storm trunk relocation) there will be representatives from AltaLink, ENMAX, ATCO and the Alberta Utilities Commission who will be available to answer questions.

Tuesday, February 24 2015
4 – 8 p.m.
Glamorgan Community Association, 4207 41 ave SW
View Google Map

Storm Trunk Relocation: The first steps to the SW Ring Road

In June of 2015, the City of Calgary will begin to construct some of the first tangible work on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project. This work will not be on the road itself, but will be related to utilities that will run under part of the project.

The City and Province of Alberta has agreed to construct a new storm sewer line to replace the existing South Richmond Storm Trunk that currently crosses a portion of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve known as ‘the 940‘. The new line will be located entirely within the City of Calgary city limits along 37th street SW in Lakeview when completed, while the old line will be abandoned. This abandonment and replacement is not due to the functionality or suitability of the existing infrastructure, rather it is necessary due to reasons that are political and jurisdictional in nature; reasons that go back more than 60 years.

stormtrunk_b

Continue reading “Storm Trunk Relocation: The first steps to the SW Ring Road”

West and Southwest Calgary Ring Road Virtual Tour

On August 25 2014 the Province of Alberta released 3D Virtual Tour renderings of the West and Southwest Calgary Ring Road projects.

Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project:

West Calgary Ring Road Project:

Click for more information on the 2013 Southwest Ring Road deal (plus updates in March 2014 and June 2014), and the History of the Southwest Ring Road. For more information on the history of the West Calgary Ring Road, Click Here.

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 Tsuut’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 Tsuut’ina Nation 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

Continue reading “Ring Road Update June 2014”

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 1953 when the City created it’s earliest internal Ring Road plan. 90th avenue SW between Macleod Trail and 37th street SW was at that time an integral part of the Ring Road, and formed the southern portion of the City’s first complete Southwest Calgary Ring Road route.

1953-highlight

(Source: Untitled Map. December 1953. City of Calgary Corporate Records, Archives. Board of Commissioners S. IV box 189 F. 39.)

This configuration did not last long, and soon the main Ring Road route continued south, beyond 90th avenue SW. By 1956 a masterplan for the development of parks around the Glenmore Reservoir was developed by the City (shown below), and included a modified 90th avenue SW proposal. These plans mark the first time that plans for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road and 90th avenue SW were shown to the public.

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 directly 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).

1959_90th Continue reading “90th Avenue and the Southwest Ring Road”