Southwest ring road is poised to usher in new era of growth in Calgary’s south end
It’s been a long time coming, but the southwest section of Calgary’s ring road is finally being built, and the city’s developer community is among those most thrilled to see construction going ahead.
“It’s really going to open up growth in the area, and provide not just opportunities for new communities, but also existing ones,” said Steve LePan, director of sales and marketing with Anthem United.
“We’re certainly happy to see it moving forward, because it would have had a negative impact (on our development in the area) if it had not been approved.”
Anthem United is one of a number of developers that were counting on the ring road’s eventual construction after decades of planning, negotiations and false starts. Its southwest community of Belmont is already being built and would have gone ahead without the ring road, but the fact the highway is now being constructed, and expected to be completed by 2021, adds to the attractiveness of the community, as well as others in the works.
“This portion of the ring road has been a missing piece in our road network,” said Julie Radke, manager of ring road integration for the City of Calgary. More than 50 years in the making, the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project has an estimated price tag of about $1.42 billion and will stretch 21 kilometres between Highway 8 and Macleod Trail in the south.
“When completed, it will connect to major highways and the existing Stoney Trail, improving the road network for reliable goods movement and more options for traveling around the city,” Radke said, adding it will also shorten travel time for people driving between communities and popular destinations in and around Calgary.
Yet perhaps the biggest benefit is for new developments, says John Hall, co-ordinator for community planning with the City.
“Looking at future communities, the ring road will facilitate development of the lands covered under the Providence Area Structure Plan, anticipated to include up to 32,000 residents and 11,000 workers.”
Among those happy to see the road under construction is Dream Development, the largest land holder in Providence.
“We wouldn’t be able to develop these lands until the ring road was a certainty,” said Trevor Dickie, vice-president of planning and development for Calgary land with Dream Development.
We wouldn’t be able to develop these lands until the ring road was a certainty.
Decades in the making, the ring road project has not been without controversy, says Jesse Salus, who writes the Calgary Ring Road blog.
The road had been proposed along various paths through the city and surrounding lands, including the community of Lakeview, where Salus resides.
“Having the spectre of an eight-lane highway come through one of the quieter neighbourhoods in all of Calgary concerned me,” he said. And it concerned others too, including those wary of its impact on ecologically sensitive areas, like the Weaselhead—a much-loved recreational area through which the ring road had at one-time been proposed to run.
Hearing the concerns of residents, the province and other stakeholders prompted a change of course, and planning got underway for the road to pass through Tsuu T’ina Nation land. Many years of negotiations ensued, but in 2013, the Tsuu T’ina Nation and the province reached an agreement for the ring road’s construction, after the First Nation received guarantees its land would have access points to the ring road so the community could also participate in the economic development it is expected to create, Salus says.
Even today, the ring road continues to stir controversy in some camps, as residents of communities located near the gravel pits for the road’s construction have expressed concerns about air quality and noise.
Still, many Calgarians view the ring road’s extension as a boon – particularly those in the city’s southernmost communities, who presently have Macleod Trail as the only main thoroughfare to connect with the rest of Calgary, Salus says.
“The people who will get the most out of this road are commuters that live south of Fish Creek Park, because for the first time they will have a second primary access point to get around the city.”