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.
A historic look at 37th street SW in Lakeview
While there were times in the past where 37th street was investigated as a major connector road, no officially approved study has ever concluded with a high-speed road running along 37th street SW.
In 1900 the Tsuu T’ina surrendered a 66-foot wide strip of land (shown in part above) running from what we know today as the Weaselhead parking lot on 37th street SW, to a point just north of the Priddis district, south of the reserve. A road bridge over the Elbow river was built in 1900 where the current footbridge is located, and the route through the park mirrors exactly the route of the current bike path through the area. This Weaselhead Road, or Priddis Trail as the entire route was known, connected the reserve on the south of the Elbow river to what is now 37th street SW at 66th avenue. The road was a provincial road, and portions remained open to cars until as recently as the 1960s. This dirt road remains the only example of a public connector road through the Weaselhead, utilising 37th street SW to connect north to the City.
In 1956 (above) plans were drawn up to make the areas of what would eventually become Lakeview and the community of North Glenmore Park into a huge, 2000 acre park, complete with aquarium, solarium, botanical garden and museum. The West Bypass road, was shown as running along 37th street SW and crossing the Elbow river (a few hundred feet west of the Weaselhead bridge and Priddis trail) to connect with 90th avenue SW south of the reservoir. Though the park plan was accepted in principle by City Council, the road plan would not be ratified until 1959, by which time the bypass road had been moved.
In 1959 (above) Calgary’s first ever transportation study, the Calgary Metropolitan Area Transportation Study 1959, planned the West Bypass as the major north-south expressway on the west side of Calgary (soon to be known as Sarcee Trail or the Outer Ring Road). In addition to this, the plan showed the existing Weaselhead Road connecting 37th street and the West Bypass in the Weaselhead area. That same year the Weaselhead bridge was irreparably damaged, and all subsequent transportation plans removed this connection.
In 1970 (above) the City briefly proposed a 37th street connector as one of 5 options when looking to build the major north-south connector in the central-southwest. (This study later ended with Crowchild Trail/14th street SW being selected for this road).
As an extension of these plans, in 1971, Ward 13 Alderman Roy Farran instead proposed linking 37th street SW north and south of the reservoir, this time as a minor 2-lane road through the parks, crossing the Elbow river at the site of the original Weaselhead Bridge. This was again rejected.
In 1980 (above), after the Calgary city council voted to purchase the 37th street SW right-of-way south of the river on condition that the Sarcee Trail extension not cut through the Weaselhead, the Ward 13 Alderman Jim Bell proposed that 37th street SW be utilise as a smaller connector road rather than a freeway. This was promptly voted down, however 30 years later, Ward 13 Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart would propose essentially the same idea.
In 2002, the City began the process of looking at alternatives to a Tsuu T’ina road route by adding two other routes to be studied; 37th street and Crowchild Trail crossing the reservoir (above upper).
Despite the 37th street option being included as an alternative scenario in the 2002 Glenmore Trail study (above lower), these concepts did not make it beyond preliminary study, and no conclusions were drawn.
Finally, the only last proposal to expand 37th street SW north of the reservoir is the ‘Route 4’ alternative presented in the 2011 ‘Ring Road Plan B’ (above). This route along with the other four ‘Plan B’ proposals are officially on hold, and more discussion of this can be found here.
In the 1960s, the north-west corner of Lakeview, currently occupied by the Boradwalk apartment buildings, was earmarked for a hotel and retail complex. The area had zoning and plans approved for a hotel with ‘Beer Parlour’ an 18 story apartment building, a strip mall development and a gas station. In 1968, the residents of Lakeview were successful in opposing the developer’s application for a liquor license for the site. With the license denied, the entire development was put on hold, and was eventually scrapped.
In 1969 the City of Calgary administration recommended the purchase of the failed Hotel site in order to protect it for Glenmore widening, expected in the 1970s. The city’s Land Committee did not exercise this option, and much of the land was later developed into apartments.
When the Tsuu T’ina voted down the 2009 agreement for a ring road through their land, the City quickly moved to implement a temporary interchange at 37th street SW and Glenmore Trail. The unusually designed interchange is a result of a request by the Province to move its bridge as far away from any future ring road-related interchange that might still be built in that location as possible. By removing the traffic lights, one more barrier to a free-flowing Glenmore Trail was removed, and also improved the overall traffic in the area, particularly along 37th street SW. The new interchange also allowed for the access to the casino to be maintained.
For such a short stretch of road, 37th street SW between 66th avenue and Glenmore Trail has a long story to tell. While the road has traditionally been a smaller road and residential feeder, the prospect of a ‘Plan B’ ring road route through this section of Calgary, and Lakeview, would irreversibly alter both the road and the communities attached to it. Since negotiations for a ring road through Tsuu T’ina land have recommenced, plans for a freeway along 37th street SW are on hold; the future of the road is in the hands of the Province, the Tsuu T’ina and the City.
There is significantly more to the larger story of this corridor. I cover the Province’s ‘Plan B’ here, and the section of 37th Street SW from 90th avenue to Anderson road here, and the portion south of Anderson road is covered here.