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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‘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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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”

Developments and Masterplans

The motivations of the Provincial government in building the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (like the City before it) are clear; to provide a transportation corridor for better access to and from the Southwest quadrant of the city, and to allow for transportation of goods around the city and avoiding busier inner-city roads.

The southwest has a number of natural and political obstacles that restrict the kind of transportation infrastructure found elsewhere in the City. These include the Reservoir and the Elbow river, the Weaselhead, the Fish Creek and the Fish Creek Provincial park, and the Tsuut’ina reserve. The negotiations with the Tsuut’ina, and the 2013 agreement,  navigated all of those obstacles to provide only the second fully north-south corridor in the Southwest quadrant, the other being Macleod Trail.

But what’s in it for the Nation?

At different points in the relationship between the Tsuut’ina and the City and Province, there has been differing attitudes to negotiate and sell land. While in the past there had been an apparent willingness by the Tsuut’ina Nation to sell reserve land providing there was a clear benefit (the Weaselhead in 1931, the Highway 22 corridor in the 1930s and again in the 1950s, though even these sales are contentious) by the time the first road plans were drawn up that identified the reserve as a potential route, the Nation was cool to the idea of providing land for a road. In 1978, Tsuut’ina Chief Clifford Big Plume stated “We are not going to benefit from a highway through our reserve” (See below)

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The 940

‘The 940’ plays a very important role in the history of the Southwest Ring Road. It is the centre of ring road planning from the very beginning, and in many ways remains the key to an alignment on Tsuu T’ina lands. But what is the 940?

The 940 is a 940 acre parcel of land that makes up the north-east corner of the Tsuu T’ina reserve. It is bordered by the City of Calgary on two sides, 37th street SW and Lakeview to the east, Glenmore Trail and Glamorgan to the north, and the Elbow river and Weaselhead defines its south and west borders. Every official alignment of a major road in this area has the road cutting directly though the heart of this land. Continue reading “The 940”

The 2009 Agreement

(For information about the 2013 ring road agreement including maps, click here)

In my last post, I talked about the road design that was part of the 2009 proposal, which was eventually defeated in a referendum of Tsuu T’ina members. While this design formed a large part of the 2009 agreement, the details of that agreement are equally as important when it comes to understanding the history of the road. By all public accounts, the reasons why many members of the Tsuu T’ina voted against the 2009 deal were contained in the details of this agreement.

Soon after the deal was rejected by a vote of about 60.5% against, Tsuu T’ina Chief Sanford Big Plume made comments that the Tsuu T’ina were interested continuing negotiations. While stating categorically that they were not asking for more money, more land or a different route, he did identify a few details of the agreement as being part of the reason the vote failed. Rather than rejecting the entire agreement, he implied that the Nation had voted against certain clauses that were unacceptable. While the Nation were on record as wanting to continue the negotiation process (the deal was only ever put to a vote that one time), after the rejection the deal was declared dead by the Province.

Before we look at the details later identified as needing revision, lets look at what the agreement actually contained: Continue reading “The 2009 Agreement”

2009 Southwest Calgary Ring Road Design: Ultimate Stage

(For information about the 2013 ring road agreement including maps, click here)

The 2009 Southwest Calgary Ring Road plan was the culmination of not just 5 years of study and negotiation, but of decades of transportation plans. While the negotiations were rejected by the Tsuu T’ina in June of 2009, that agreement will form the basis of the current negotiations. Both parties have stated that while the terms of the agreement need work, the road and alignment would not change in the renewed negotiations. But what exactly did the plan entail?

The 2009 Plan was initiated in 2004, with the signing of an ‘Agreement in Principle’ by Premiere Ralph Klein and Chief Sanford Big Plume, followed in 2005 by the signing of a ‘Final Framework for Infrastructure’. This Framework agreement set the stage for the Province to begin the work of determining a route, planning the road and negotiating for the land required.

While the design plans for most of the Stoney Trail (the Calgary Ring Road) calls for a road of 2-4 lanes in each direction (4-8 lanes total) the Southwest portion was designed to accomodate 16 lanes. The Tsuu T’ina agreed that if they were to sell land for a road, it would be done only once. Since the Province have long term plans for a second ‘Outer’ Ring Road around Calgary, and with no further opportunity to purchase more land from the Tsuu T’ina, the Southwest portion was to be designed to accomodate not only the 8 lanes from the current Stoney Trail Ring Road, but an additional 8 lanes for a future, ‘Outer’ Ring Road (shown below). The ‘Opening Day’ scenario details a road of 4-6 lanes, while the ‘Ultimate’ stage, not expected to be built for 50+ years, details a road of up to 16 lanes.

Outer Ring Road small

Continue reading “2009 Southwest Calgary Ring Road Design: Ultimate Stage”