A crucial portion of the city’s southwest ring road that traverses land purchased from the Tsuut’ina First Nation is now open to traffic.
The 12-kilometre section of the 101-kilometre freeway encircling the city has proven the most complicated and frustrating portion to begin and complete, and its construction is still generating concerns among those who live alongside it.
But beginning October 1, traffic will begin flowing southwards from Glenmore Trail and Sarcee Trail over three crossings over the Elbow River, in a stretch that will include a tunnel at Weaselhead Road linking the Tsuut’ina First Nation.
From there, what’s known as Tsuut’ina Trail proceeds farther south, through interchanges at 90th Avenue S.W. and Anderson Road, the latter of which is already partly in use but will now allow access north to Sarcee Trail S.W.
For now, vehicle access will terminate at Fish Creek Boulevard, or 146th Avenue S.W., where traffic will be forced to exit. The linkage to the Highway 22X portion won’t be completed for another year.
The milestone was marked in a news conference at the Anderson Road interchange attended by Premier Jason Kenney, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney and other dignitaries.
The roadway is expected to unplug commuter gridlock that’s long plagued routes like 14 St. S.W.
“We’re one step closer to having a free-flowing road circling Alberta’s largest city,” said Premier Jason Kenney.
“This road will improve commutes and help create more opportunities for job creators and Calgarians who will benefit from this world-class infrastructure.”
After decades of wrangling and delays, the province acquired land in 2013 from the First Nation in what’s been called a historic $341-million deal spearheaded on the province’s side by then and current Transportation Minister Ric McIver.
Also opening will be Westhills Way, which provides access to the Westhills Towne Centre shopping area.
Max Frenette, assistant construction manager with project contractor KGL Constructors, noted northern portions of the project — along Highway 8 and Glenmore Trail east to Grey Eagle Drive — have been part of the traffic network for some time.
“Most of these alignments are open today, so most motorists will be familiar with these movements,” said Frenette.
The road’s opening will enhance access to the Tsuut’ina’s Taza commercial development, noted Chief Roy Whitney.
The same goes for the east-west stretch along Highway 22X, though lane numbers have been limited due to ongoing construction.
While he said the ring road will bring benefits to the city, Richmond Hill resident Trevor Liskowich voiced concerns about the lack of a sound wall between his home and the ring road, especially with the promise of more traffic as the freeway opens up.
“We’ve already been seeing more traffic and more noise here, and higher speeds than posted,” he said.
The province’s method of measuring the road’s noise at his property, said Liskowich, doesn’t reflect the reality of sound levels experienced in all parts of his home.
Those concerns are shared by many others along the southwest ring road’s route, with Discovery Ridge residents planting trees to symbolize what they call the lack of proper noise attenuation.
Margaret Anderson, whose house in Woodbine backs onto the freeway, says changes to its design have pushed an interchange ramp to within 45 metres of her property while a sound berm has been reduced.
Now she says there’s no fence separating the freeway from nearby homes.
“Animals, small children, my cognitively disabled daughter or anyone with impaired cognitive function, are all in danger of wandering onto the freeway,” said Anderson.
Four years into its construction, the $1.4-billion, 31-kilometre southwest ring road has consumed one million metric tonnes of asphalt and 13 million kilograms of rebar, mostly for its 14 interchanges and 47 bridges, said KGL.
It’s also displaced 15 million cubic metres of earth, “like a CFL (football) field 550 storeys high,” said Frenette.
The last phase of Calgary’s ring road — between Highway 8 and the TransCanada Highway — is scheduled to be completed in 2024 at the latest.
Source - CREB Talk - Calgary Herald Sept. 2020