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.
Modern plans have for decades shown the Southwest Calgary Ring Road as traveling through the northeast corner of the Tsuut’ina reserve. As these plans for the road had utilised land that cannot be guaranteed to be available, many have wondered why the City allowed communities like Lakeview and Glamorgan to grow right up to the city-limits, leaving no room for a ring road. With no corridor protected for this road, some have openly blamed the City for failing to plan ahead, but is this really the case?
Early Road Planning
Although there were early attempts at planning the major roadways in Calgary, notably Thomas Mawson’s plan of 1914 and the City’s 1930 Major Street & Arterial Highway plan, 1952 marked the first modern road plan for the city of which all subsequent plans are indebted. The 1952 plan (below) was the result of a push in 1948 for a masterplan for Calgary, not just for street layout but for all future growth for the city including land-use and zoning.
The explosion of car ownership in the post-war era had compounded congestion in the downtown core of Calgary, and the need to design a road network that would accomodate new traffic and allow drivers to avoid downtown was seen as paramount in allowing for the continuing growth of the city. Although the Major Thoroughfare Plan shows improved bypass roadways that avoid the core of the city, the proposed road network was contained within the city-limits of the time, and no regional bypass routes or ring roads feature in the plan. That state of affairs was soon to change, and beginning the following year, the City began the process of planning a ring road system for Calgary. Continue reading “Why plan a road through the Tsuut’ina reserve?”
A growing population south of Fish Creek are demanding a road through the Tsuu T’ina reserve to be able to get to central Calgary easier. The Government has approached the Nation about routing a road through the reservation and crossing the Elbow River at the Weaselhead. If this sounds familiar, the next part probably will not: The Tsuu T’ina agree to the road, the land is surrendered at no cost, and the road is built. The year is 1900, and a road through the Weaselhead and the reserve is open to the public.
(Photo by Alison Jackson of the Priddis Trail near what is now the Weaselhead parking lot, September 29 1963. Courtesy of the Calgary Public Library, Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library.)
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?
This is the fourth and final part of my overview of the Calgary Ring Road project, covering the period from 2000 to the current day. In many ways this is the period that moved the full ring road project from concept to reality. Despite a small portion having been built in the previous decade, work on a high-capacity, free-flowing provincial highway got underway in earnest after the turn of the millennium; work that is still ongoing today. (Click here for Part 1: 1956-1970, here for Part 2 1974-1976, and here for Part 3 1980-2001) As always, click on any of the maps for a larger view.
BECOMING A PROVINCIAL HIGHWAY
In 2000, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta signed an agreement that transfered the control of both the Deerfoot Trail and Stoney Trail to the Province. Despite the road originating in Provincial plans, and being primarily designed by the Province since the 1970s, the Calgary ring road had to this point been a City road. Continue reading “The Ring Road System – The Provincial Road (2001 to 2012)”
On September 18 2012 the Tsuu T’ina Nation announced a $65 million expansion of their Grey Eagle Casino facility, including a hotel and entertainment complex.
The plans include a previously announced gaming-floor and restaurant expansion for the casino, and for the first time a 4.5 star, 178-room hotel, plus a 2000 seat entertainment centre with conference space and banquet facilities was announced.
The picture below shows the Lakeview area in 1951, comprising forest and farmland.
Much has been said about the impacts on the reservoir and the Weaselhead with respect to a ring road crossing, but in this article, I want to focus on the impacts to the community of Lakeview. In recent years, Lakeview seems to have become the focus on southwest ring road issues in the city. Given its location directly adjacent to the Tsuu T’ina reserve, it’s unsurprising, but this wasn’t always the case. When Lakeview was built, the community was not adjacent to the Tsuu T’ina reserve, and was in fact more than 1.5 kilometres from the city limits. it remained that way until the early 1990s.
When Lakeview was planned and constructed (throughout the 1960s), the area to the west of 37th street SW was owned by the Canadian Military and used as a training facility, known progressively as Sarcee Camp, Sarcee Barracks and Harvey Barracks. This 940 acre parcel of land was originally part of the Tsuu T’ina reserve, but along with the Weaselhead, it was surrendered by the Nation in 1913 (Much more on this in here).
That land was used almost continuously for military operations from 1910 until the barracks closed in 1996. In 1952 the Military purchased the land outright, and it was formally annexed by the City of Calgary in 1956, making it legally a part of Calgary. It wasn’t until the return of the land to the Nation in 1992, and the de-annexation by the city in 1993, that 37th street SW in Lakeview once again became the City limits; the boundary between the City of Calgary and the Tsuu T’ina Nation.
What all of this means is that while 37th street SW in Lakeview is currently the city boundary, and it is now the ‘last available place’ to build a North-South connector road within city limits, that was not the case when Lakeview was planned and built. Continue reading “Lakeview and the Ring Road”
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).
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. Continue reading “37th Street SW, Glenmore Trail to 66th Avenue SW”