After years of negotiations and near misses, a huge obstacle to begin construction of the southwest ring road has been reached.
On October 24, the Tsuu T’ina Nation voted 69 per cent in favour of a tentative land agreement with the Government of Alberta that will see them transfer a portion of reserve land to the Province in order to build the southwest leg of the ring road.
“It’s a win for Calgary, it’s a win for the province of Alberta and a win for the people of the Tsuu T’ina,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the tentative deal.
This new deal comes four years after 78 per cent of members eligible to vote turned down a deal presented from the province.
The 2009 deal was said to be very similar to the new deal the members voted for, but not identical.
“Both parties worked hard and in good faith through this round of negotiations,” said Transportation Minister Ric McIver. “We believe we have a fair deal for the Nation, for Calgary residents and for Alberta’s taxpayers.”
The current deal will see the Tsuu T’ina First Nation transfer 428 hectares of land to the Government of Alberta for $340.7 million to cover the relocation costs of houses, buildings (including a Sportsplex and Museum) and various infrastructure systems.
In addition, the Crown will transfer 2031 hectares of land to the Tsuu T’ina Nation and have approved the Nation to purchase an additional 130 hectares of land from the Government of Alberta for $1.6 million.
The road must open to traffic within seven years of the date of the land transfer.
While a deal has been reached, Nenshi acknowledges there is still a lot of work to do and that the eventual opening of the southwest ring road will not solve the transportation problems in Calgary.
“We need to talk to the province about investments in transit, in particular in that quadrant, in the southwest BRT as a complement to the ring road,” said Nenshi.
Premier Alison Redford said the ring road will help improve the traffic flow in Calgary and surrounding areas.
“And at the end of the day, it will improve our quality of life, allowing us to spend less time stuck in traffic, and more time with our loved ones,” said Redford.
The construction of the ring road through the Tsuu T’ina First Nation should also come with no costs to the City of Calgary, according to the mayor.
“I’ve been assured many times that the city’s conditions would be met,” said Nenshi. “We don’t have any money to build the connectors, we don’t have any money to build the utilities. All our agreements were contingent on the province taking on those liabilities as part of the construction of the road.”
The southwest portion of the ring road will be the last section of the road that extends around the City of Calgary constructed.
The northwest and northeast portions are already open for traffic, while the southeast portion had been slated to open Oct. 1, but has been delayed.