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A ring road on 37th Street would serve no one

posted Jun 27, 2010, 9:50 AM by Geoffrey Vanderburg
The Lakeview Community Association is taking steps to spread the word about the potential impact on Calgary in general and Lakeview in particular if 37th Street SW is selected as part of the southwest leg of Calgary's ring road. In this article, the Lakeview Community Association suggests that a ring road on 37th Street would not only do much harm, it would also do little good.  For more information about the ring road, visit this page of Lakeview's website.

The rapid growth of Calgary in the last decade has not been matched by increases in transportation capacity and, as a result, many roadways are overloaded and commute times have become unacceptably long. Public transit is also unable to provide a more convenient and comfortable alternative to the use of personal vehicles. 

The Province of Alberta has undertaken the construction of a ring road encircling Calgary. This road has been planned as an eight lane limited access expressway with a design speed limit of 110 km/hr. The northerly segments of the ring road are now essentially complete and contracts have been let for the construction of the south-east segment. Some of the land required for a south-west segment is owned by the Province but a proposed land deal with the Tsuu T’ina nation[1] that would have provided the missing piece was rejected in a June, 2009 vote. 

The Province of Alberta and the City of Calgary signed a Memorandum of Agreement[2] in November, 2009, for a planning study to determine the appropriate alignment for the portion of the SW ring road “… from north of the junction of 17th Avenue SW to east of Macleod Trail SE as shown on the attached map”. This study is expected to be completed in Q4 of 2011. Public consultation had initially been expected in the spring of 2010 but has now been deferred until after the municipal election in October, 2010. 

The Lakeview Community Association’s (LCA) concern is that the current Provincial government is fixated on building the south-west segment of a ring road at any cost. However, governments are custodians of the public’s tax dollars and have a responsibility to spend those dollars wisely. Before making a commitment to building new roads, the Provincial government needs to determine whether the transportation issues facing Calgary could be better solved in other ways that would also be less costly and less damaging to the environment. 

The LCA is concerned that by the time the study is released and a preferred route has been identified the public consultation process will merely be a formality. In the absence of meaningful consultation, the LCA has undertaken the process of attempting to understand the impacts on Lakeview of possible alignments that would not include any agreement for the use of Tsuu T’ina lands. The planning study group has stated that no conceptual drawings or sketches of any kind exist to indicate possible alignments. However, an alignment along the northerly boundary of Tsuu T’ina lands that turned south at 37th St SW would have to go through the Lakeview community. Preliminary estimates generated by a team working on behalf of the community association suggest that approximately 500 homes would have to be expropriated at a total cost on the order of $775 million. The foot print of the interchange alone is huge. A smaller six lane roadway with a design speed of even 80 km/hr would still require a large amount of land. Specifics regarding these impacts can be found in the document called “10 Things Albertans Should Know About 37th Street” posted as a PDF on this page of the Lakeview Community Association’s website: www.lakeviewcommunity.org/announcements/ring-road. To open the document directly, click here

In addition to the cost and social disruption associated with routing an eight lane expressway through a residential neighbourhood, an alignment down 37th St SW would also cross North Glenmore Park and the Glenmore Reservoir. North Glenmore Park is one of only four regional parks in Calgary and is used year round by tens of thousands of citizens of Calgary. The Glenmore Reservoir is the source of approximately half the drinking water for the city. The alignment would also run down the east edge of the Weaselhead natural area, a haven for wildlife of all kinds and a sanctuary of bird watchers and naturalists. 

An eight lane expressway will inevitably generate large amounts of traffic noise and pollutants that will significantly affect North Glenmore Park, the Weaselhead natural area, and the Glenmore Reservoir. 

Faced with potential community, social, environmental, and cost impacts of this magnitude the provincial and city governments need to make sure that they understand the nature of the transportation issues they are attempting to solve by building the proposed SW ring road. There are certainly problems for residents of new communities in the deep south west of Calgary and long distance traffic needs to find a way around Calgary rather than coming through the heart of the city. 

But it is not clear that a ring road built in developed south west communities is the best solution to these, quite different and separable requirements. Long distance traffic seeks to avoid the congestion associated with city, especially commuter, traffic and prefers routes with the minimum grades possible in order to conserve fuel and brakes. Commuters want to get to and from their place of employment quickly, economically, reliably and in comfort. 

A ring road built along a 37th St SW alignment does not serve either purpose effectively. As an inner city road, this option would be heavily used by commuters and other intra-city traffic. This route would also join the TransCanada Highway at Stoney Trail NW and would face a substantial grade climbing the same slope on which Canada Olympic Park ski hill is built. From the perspective of commuters, a south west ring road would provide little or no improvement in commuting time for those travelling into the city centre because of traffic congestion between the ring road and downtown. Commuters travelling to jobs in the east side of Calgary will, when the south east ring road is completed, find that to be their preferred route. 

An objective review of the transportation problems that the Province is seeking to solve by building a south west ring road might well conclude that different solutions would work better. A true ring road might be better routed west across Highway 22X and then north west to join the TransCanada Highway well away from inner city traffic congestion. Commuters might be better served by thoughtful investment in more comfortable, convenient and rapid public transit alternatives. Relatively minor improvements to the existing Calgary road network might complete the set of solutions that would provide much better answers to the needs of both the Province and the city. 

The LCA would respectfully submit that the public consultation process be a part of the impact study and before committing to a south west ring road, the Province of Alberta and the city of Calgary creatively consider other, less damaging and probably less expensive solutions. 

For more information, contact the Lakeview Community Association at 403-242-8660 or send email to ringroad@lakeviewcommunity.org

Notes:

[1]
http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/Content/docType52/Production/Tsuu_Tina_Final_Agreement_with_Schedules.pdf

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