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”

Highway 8 and the Ring Road

This month, the Government of Alberta revised the plans for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project by extending the western portion of the road into the Highway 8 corridor. This section of the ring road, what is currently Highway 8 from Sarcee trail to just west of the Calgary city limits and highlighted below in blue, had until recently been a part of the West Calgary Ring Road Project. This change shifts approximately 5km of roadway to the Southwest ring road, adds one additional interchange (69th street SW) and a new crossing over the Elbow River to the project, while removing the same from the West leg of the road.1

July_2015_update_new(The previous Southwest ring road route in green, with the addition of a portion of Highway 8 in blue, making up the most recent Southwest ring road alignment.2)

This section of Highway 8, between Sarcee trail and 101st street, has played an important role in the history of the ring road, not only recently, but for many years before.

South Morley Trail, Springbank Trail, Richmond Road and Highway 8

The modern Highway 8 partially follows the route of one of the oldest roads on Calgary’s west side. Richmond road, first known as South Morley Trail, was a key trail west of the city in the 19th century, and originally connected Calgary to the Stoney Nakoda First Nation Reserve via Springbank.3

1894_Richmond_Road(The Richmond road corridor highlighted in pink, 1894.3)
Continue reading “Highway 8 and the Ring Road”

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”

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.

Continue reading “A Brief History of the Southeast Calgary Ring Road”

37th street SW, 90th avenue SW to Anderson road

Although 37th street plays an important part in the story of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, its discontinuous nature has meant that different parts of the road have played different roles throughout the history of the project. It is preciecly this segmentation, due to the presence of the Glenmore Reservoir, that has caused confusion over the role that 37th street plays. You will often hear comments that ’37th street was always meant to be used for the ring road’, and though partially true, in reality that only applies to the portion of the road south of the reservoir (pictured below).

37th_row_map

As covered in a previous article, the section of 37th street north of the reservoir has been a residential road since Lakeview, the community in which it resides, was developed in the 1960s. Despite early use as a provincial road, It has never been approved as part of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road or the Sarcee Trail extension. The portion of 37th street south of the reservoir, however, is a different story. For this article, I will cover only the portion of the 37th street corridor from 90th avenue SW to Anderson road. The portion south of Anderson road, which has its own unique history, is covered here. Unless otherwise noted, when I mention ’37th street’ I am referring to the section of 37th street SW between 90th avenue SW and Anderson Road. Continue reading “37th street SW, 90th avenue SW to Anderson road”

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)”