CALGARY -- The final southwest stretch of the ring road planned to eventually encircle the city will not be approved if government proposals are unacceptable to the community, according to a local MLA.
On Saturday, Calgary-Elbow MLA Alison Redford addressed a group of about 300 local residents opposed to constructing the stretch of highway.
On behalf of the minister of transportation, Redford said: "This is not intended to hurt this community . . . . If the community doesn't agree with where we go, then we don't do it."
After the meeting, a spokesperson for Redford said the intent was to assure residents they would be consulted during the process and that unacceptable proposals would not go forward.
A spokesperson for Transportation Minister Luke Ouellette confirmed the government would not push a proposal that was denounced by the community.
The Lakeview community association held the forum over the weekend to raise awareness about the expressway, which might connect the TransCanada with highway 22X, cutting through several residential communities and crossing the Glenmore reservoir.
A memorandum of understanding was signed last year to create a proposal and determine a path for the roadway after a plan to cut through Tsuu T'ina land was rejected by the band.
Lakeview residents said they were opposed to building the stretch of road along the most likely site of 37th Street, believing the highway could displace as many as 500 homes and dramatically alter the community.
George Reti, the chairman of a local community group opposed to the leg of highway, said he was thrilled residents would have a say in construction plans.
"I'm very relieved the province would listen to the wishes of the electorate," he said.
Ward 11 Ald. Brian Pincott was also heartened by the forum and government promises to listen to the community's wishes.
"You know, that's good news. I haven't heard that from (Redford) before," he said. "I'm glad to see Alison is getting on board with her community."
The government is currently trying to assemble several possible proposals, which should be presented at a town hall meeting in November.
Alex Broda, the head of the project to find a viable corridor, said the government is still looking at several different options and did not yet have a defined right of way.
"It is the hardest planning study I've ever encountered. In previous ring roads, we had the land and we had the right of way, so it was easier," he said.
Community members suggested alternatives to the ring road, which has been part of the city's transportation plan for more than 40 years, including expanding 14th Ave., building a tunnel or reopening negotiations with the Tsuu T'ina nation.
Redford said the province is still willing to negotiate with residents on the nearby reserve if they come forward with a proposal.
In July, Tsuu T'ina nation residents voted against a deal drafted by band leaders and the provincial government. In exchange for the strip of property that would be used to build the highway, the band was offered $500 million worth of cash, infrastructure improvements and additional land.
In the meantime, members of the Lakeview community association said some homes on the stretch of land where the road is being proposed are no further than 40 metres from Tsuu T'ina property.
Construction would require a massive expropriation of people's homes, they said.
Duncan Kent, president of the association, said his group had compiled a study estimating the impacts of the expressway several months ago. He said the study raised concerns about the quality of the water supply in Glenmore reservoir if the highway went ahead. It also predicted hundreds of homes would have to be destroyed and their residents relocated.
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