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.
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).
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”
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?
While the City of Calgary, and later the Province of Alberta, had addressed the concept of a ring road network around Calgary before, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the idea was formalised into a singular road plan. (Much more on the early history of the road in part one of this four part series)
1974 CALGARY PARKWAY RING (Province of Alberta)
1974 saw the completion of the first comprehensive report on the Calgary Ring Road, known at this time as the Calgary Parkway Ring, which was produced by the firm of Deleuw Cather Consulting Engineers and Planners, on behalf of the Provincial government. This report not only laid out the route and general design of the road, but it also explored the need for the road itself, and the concept of the road as part of a larger system, integrated with other amenities such as public transportation and parks. Continue reading “The Ring Road System – Integrated Planning (1974-1976)”
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.
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.
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).
While the Weaselhead cannot possibly be summarised in a single blog post, some of the key points in it’s history can be traced.
What we know as the Weaselhead was originally part of the First Nations reserve which was granted to the Tsuut’ina (then Sarcee) in 1883, though of course it existed long before that as part of the Tsuut’ina traditional lands. Before its sale to the City, and for a time after, the area had been used by the Canadian Military for training and maneuvers. It was also the location of a public road called the Priddis Trail. The road was built in 1900 and originated at what would later become 37th street SW and 66th avenue SW. (A survey from 1934 including the Weaselhead road is shown below, and I cover the story of the Priddis Trail here). Continue reading “The Weaselhead and the City”