The History of Ring Road Negotiations

On the day of a vote by the Tsuu T’ina Nation on a potential deal to sell and trade land for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road, it’s worth looking at the history of the negotiations for this road.

Many commentators have made statements to the effect that the City of Calgary or the Province of Alberta have been negotiating with the Nation over land for the ring road for upwards of 60 years. While it’s true that designs for the road, even from the very beginning, have shown the road on reserve land, it cannot be said that true negotiations have been underway since that time. Though conversations have certainly taken place for decades, the current negotiations can be traced back to about 2004, with modern negotiations starting in 1998, and prior to 1984 the Nation were largely opposed to the entire notion of running a major freeway through their land.

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The earliest ring road plans are revealed to the public. Mayor Don Mackay states that a small portion of the road, particularly the interchange with what would become 90th avenue, would cross the Tsuu T’ina reserve. Mayor Mackay said “Think of the possibilities for a great tourist attraction this would provide for the Indians… They could line the road, as it crosses their territory, with teepees and provide a wonderful sight.”

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Soon the proposed road would be altered from these early plans, and the officially approved route in 1959 was not noted to require land from the reserve. No formal discussions are known to have taken place with the Nation regarding the purchase of land at this time.

(For more on the early road, click here) Continue reading “The History of Ring Road Negotiations”

Land Transfers

There has been discussion about the potential for a land transfer component in the pending southwest Calgary ring road deal between the Province and the Tsuu T’ina. Concerns have been raised publicly about the status of the new land that the Tsuu T’ina might acquire, and whether or not this land would be integrated into the reserve. In a recent Calgary Journal article, Jean Crowder, MP and Official Opposition Critic for Aboriginal Affairs, questioned whether the new lands included in the agreement would in fact be reserve land.

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The map above shows the new lands (magenta) proposed to be added to the reserve (red) in the 2009 deal.

Without knowing the details of the 2013 agreement, we can currently only look at the 2009 deal to see how land ownership and transfers were proposed in regards to this project. The details about ownership and transfer that follow are based on the wording of the 2009 deal (which can be downloaded in full here). For a further look at the 2009 deal, click here. Continue reading “Land Transfers”

Casino Access and Bargaining Chips

In July of 2009, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier stated “One thing is for sure. The legal access to the First Nation’s land is off of Anderson Road. And so we will have to accommodate and work with our neighbours as we always do… At the end of the day, we need to build an interchange at 37th Street SW and Glenmore (trail) and, most importantly, Calgarians just want us to get on with it.” Over the next few days, Bronconier indicated that while access to the reserve would always be maintained at Anderson Road, the access to the reserve and the Tsuu T’ina’s Grey Eagle Casino at Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW was only ‘considered temporary’. This was disputed by the Nation, and soon legal threats were issued over potential limits to reserve access.

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The concept of a single, legally required access point between the City of Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina reserve has been raised in recent years by politicians and the media. So too has the suggestion that the access road to the Grey Eagle Casino is only temporary in nature. However, is this really the case? Is the City only required to provide a single connection? Is the entrance to the reserve near the casino provided as a courtesy, or does that access exist as a right of the Nation? The issue around this access point is highly charged, politically sensitive, and like most aspects of this story, comes with a long history behind it. Continue reading “Casino Access and Bargaining Chips”

2013 Referendum

On September 19 2013, Transportation Minister Ric McIver confirmed a story published in the Calgary Journal the day before, and announced that the past several years of negotiations between the Tsuu T’ina and the Province regarding the ring road had come to a fruitful conclusion with the finalization of a new ring road deal. According to the Journal, on September 10 the Tsuu T’ina Council had approved a tentative deal regarding the land and compensation required to build the southwest Calgary ring road through the First Nation reserve. With a deal agreed upon by the Province and the Nation’s Council, all that remains is a referendum of Tsuu T’ina members, which has been set for October 24 2013. This marks only the second time that an agreement will come to a referendum of Nation members; the first, in 2009, was rejected.

Continue reading “2013 Referendum”

Water, Sewer and Roads

The issue of extending utility services from the City of Calgary to the Tsuu T’ina reserve has long been a key yet subtle part of ring road negotiations. While on paper these issues have rarely been explicitly linked, they both play a large role in the relationship between these two governments.

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This past week the City of Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina have finalized an arrangement that will see the Nation’s Grey Eagle Casino, including the new hotel and concert venue expansion pictured above, connected to the City’s water and sewer infrastructure. Although not explicitly related to the issue of the ring road, this new agreement can be seen to be the latest step in a long story that is nonetheless interwoven with the fate of the road. Continue reading “Water, Sewer and Roads”

1977 Sarcee Trail South Route Location Study

Though the planning for a Southwest Ring Road had been started in the early-to-mid 1950s, it remained little more than a line on a map for the next few decades. It took the pressures of growth, and the establishment of a new Provincial park, for the City to move the project from long-range thinking to a more detailed phase of planning. By the mid 1970s the planning for the Sarcee Trail extension, as it was then known, had become a priority to the City, even if the need for the road was recognised to still be decades away.

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The study would look at routes that traveled from Glenmore Trail to Highway 22x, though I will focus on the portion that crosses the Elbow River, from Glenmore Trail to Anderson Road. For more on the crossing of the Fish Creek, see here. Continue reading “1977 Sarcee Trail South Route Location Study”

The Railways of the Tsuut’ina reserve

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The concept of a Provincial road crossing Tsuut’ina land is a well established one, with two having been built, another shelved, and the Southwest Calgary Ring Road still under negotiations. However, the idea of a railway through southwest Calgary and the reserve might be a little more surprising. Around 100 years ago no less than three Railways were planned to traverse the reserve, lying as it does between Calgary, the southern Alberta coal and oil fields, and the American northwest beyond.

Though the relationship between the Southwest Calgary Ring Road and these railway projects of another century might not be obvious, their stories of infrastructure development, of planned economic prosperity through the ability to transport goods, and of the reserve’s role in potentially providing a path for these projects illustrate a long history of public and private transportation interests in the Tsuut’ina land. It is also worth noting that the Indian Act, which governs the First Nations reserve system in Canada, was amended in 1911 to allow for the expropriation of reserve land for road and railway projects. The plans shown below would likely not have required the permission of the Tsuut’ina to have been built.

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The above map shows the general location of the three lines that had been planned to cross the Tsuut’ina reserve in the early part of the 20th century: the Calgary and Fernie Railway, the Western Dominion Railway and the Calgary and Southwestern Railway. Continue reading “The Railways of the Tsuut’ina reserve”

The Trans-Canada Highway and the Ring Road

The origins of the ring road can be traced back to a time when the Trans-Canada highway was first being planned and constructed through Calgary, and the history of these two roads are intertwined. Both the northern and southern potions of the ring road have played a part in the story of the highway in the Calgary area.

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In the mid- to late-1940s the Government of Canada instructed each Province to select a route for the Trans-Canada highway through their territory. By 1949, in conjunction with BC and Saskatchewan, Alberta decided on a general route that would travel through Calgary, as opposed to a more northern route through Edmonton or a more southern route through the Crowsnest Pass. Although the highway would ultimately travel through the city via 16th avenue north and Bowness, other alignments were studied before a final route was decided upon.

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Early in the process the City of Calgary had proposed a route for the highway that would have seen the road cross the Bow River at the Shaganappi Trail and head southwest through what is now Edworthy park (road ‘A’ shown in the map above). This river crossing was also part of the city’s ring road plans at the time, but was rejected by the Province for the Trans-Canada alignment, preferring a crossing at Shouldice instead. Continue reading “The Trans-Canada Highway and the 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).

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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”

Tunneling the Weaselhead

If you can’t go around it, and you don’t want to go through or over it, what’s left? Going under it.

The tunneling of the Weaselhead was alluded by the Province of Alberta in 2011. Their  ‘Plan B’ for a southwest Calgary ring road alternative route that did not require land from the Tsuu T’ina identified several non-traditional concepts for road building, including tunneled and elevated highway construction. However, the idea of a tunnel in the Weaselhead area is not new; it was first mentioned publicly almost 40 years ago. But while tunneling may technically be an option, is it realistic?

 

Continue reading “Tunneling the Weaselhead”