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Ring Road Rally Attracts Candidates

posted Oct 5, 2010, 6:44 PM by Lindal Heppner   [ updated Nov 21, 2010, 8:04 AM by Geoffrey Vanderburg ]

A Ring Road Rally was held at North Glenmore Park on Saturday, October 2. The event was to raise awareness of the impacts of the proposed SW Ring Road Link down 37th Street and over the Glenmore Reservoir.  Download version (.doc) includes pictures from the event.



Ring Road Rally Attracts

Mayoral and Aldermanic Candidates

Please see most recent updates near the end of this article 

By Lindal Heppner                                                                                                    Posted: October 6, 2010

Introduction

A Ring Road Rally was held at North Glenmore Park on Saturday, October 2. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of the impacts of routing the proposed SW Ring Road Link down 37th Street and over the Glenmore Reservoir. 

The Province’s currently preferred route for the Ring Road would put a 1.2 km, 8-lane commuter bridge across the Elbow River catchment basin, cutting off the environmentally sensitive Weaselhead from the Glenmore Reservoir. This proposal is at odds with the city’s own wetland preservation plan. The Ring Road link would also cross the primary drinking water source for 500,000 residents in South Calgary. This issue of urban water crossings has been specifically addressed in the Plan-it documents adopted by Calgary City Council in 2009. Please see pages 22-24 and appendix B (pages 84-87) of the document linked here

Mayoral Candidates in Attendance

Mayoral candidates Bob Hawkesworth, Craig Burrows and Wayne Stewart took time from their demanding schedules to meet local residents and users of the park (a representative for Naheed Nenshi also participated in the rally). 

The four mayoral candidates in attendance (or their representatives) all expressed their dissatisfaction with the proposed South West Ring Road Link going through inner city lands to meet city and provincial transportation goals. The candidates agreed that using 37th Street as the connector could mean the destruction of established communities and would have a significant environmental impact on the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park and North Glenmore Park. 

The candidates generally agreed that the Province and Tsuu T’ina Nation should return to the bargaining table, with city representatives as possible facilitators. Each candidate suggested solutions to the traffic concerns that have become a major issue in the current civic election. 

·      Mayoral candidate Bob Hawkesworth stated that citizens have to lead the charge in stopping the development of the Ring Road through established communities and over parklands (link here). 

·      Mayoral candidate Wayne Stewart, a former resident of Lakeview Village, agreed that the proposed Ring Road location was not the solution for traffic on the west side of the city and that negotiations should be reopened with the Tsuu T’ina Nation. 

·      Mayoral candidate Craig Burrows advocated using “smart traffic technology” to alleviate the traffic concerns throughout the city and particularly for those living south of the Glenmore Reservoir. 

·      Mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi’s representative, Kate Easton, stated that the expected traffic usage for a ring road would be 90% commuter traffic. Nenshi states on his website that the city and province cannot destroy communities and parklands to get people downtown. 

Aldermanic Candidates in Attendance

Three of the five aldermanic candidates for Ward 11 were present at the rally and all expressed their concern over the roads proposed route. 

·      Aldermanic candidate Olga Knight was dismayed that there was even a thought of going through the picturesque park to make way for more roads. 

·     Aldermanic candidate James Maxim reported that Tsuu T’ina leaders want to get back to the table. 

·      Incumbent Alderman Brian Pincott pointed out that the Ring Road plan dates back decades and should be a non-starter for a forward looking city. He also suggested that there are much better alternatives than running a road down 37th Street to solve the traffic problems, for example an expanded public transit system (see link here). 

The aldermanic candidates face a tough battle since Ward 11 spans both sides of the Glenmore Reservoir. They are responsible to voters to the north who are extremely concerned about how the road will impact their communities. Lakeview is not alone, as residents of Lincoln Park, Rutland Park (changing wards for this election) and North Glenmore Park are uncertain about the possible traffic implications of pushing an additional 100,000 commuter cars (estimated) towards their communities from south of the reservoir. 

These same aldermanic candidates, however, also have a large voter population as far south as Anderson Road that are tired of traffic snarls as they try to get downtown. 

Further afield, aldermanic candidates in Ward 13, the next ward south, are advocating that the Ring Road get built so as to placate their constituents (see here and here). 

One of the rally participants asked how the aldermanic candidates would pursue alternatives, as they are only one member of City Council. James Maxim implied that the costs associated with building the Ring Road link would make the issue a nonstarter with a council already deeply in the red. Brian Pincott explained that he was instrumental in bringing to council a motion, on July 13 2009, to complete an overpass at 37th Street and Glenmore to ease traffic. 

Other Issues – To be raised with Mayoral & Aldermanic Candidates during the Campaign 

The mayoral and aldermanic candidates are probably aware that the city infrastructure costs associated with the Ring Road will make the Airport Tunnel issue look like pocket change. There are many hidden costs associated with the proposed Ring Road. 

Consider that the city will be liable for the costs of upgrades to its own infrastructure to provide access onto the Ring Road in the south. The city will also need to expand the road network to handled increased traffic volume as commuters attempt to get off the Southwest Ring Road at Glenmore Trail, Sarcee Trail or Bow Trail in a quest to get to the downtown core. Commuters seeking relief from Deerfoot Trail, Macleod Trail or 14th Street, will be faced with already congested traffic patterns on these alternate routes. The necessary infrastructure upgrades would likely cost billions of dollars – money that the city does not have unless they raise property taxes to exorbitant levels. 

However, with long term city plans (see this link) to develop a 4623 acre (1871 hectare) block of land to house 78,000+ residents south of Tsuu T’ina Reserve and west of Bridlewood (along 22X), the necessity for a connector road becomes more pressing with each elected council. 

This issue of urban sprawl is a consistent point of contention among Calgarians who are increasingly frustrated with the push by developers to extend the city boundaries outwards regardless of the impact to existing infrastructure. The city is constantly assessing how it will handle the expansion. The property developers, through their own election site, have been advocating a streamlining of the approval process and increasing infrastructure support, borne by the city, for their building programs, often at the expense of older communities and current taxpayers (article here). 

Another key issue linked to the proposed Ring Road is water conservation. The Municipal Development Plan (MDP, with links here) instituted by the City of Calgary has attempted to institute population density standards, preserve safe drinking water and preserve wetlands and parklands throughout the region. Building a Ring Road Link over both the primary South Calgary water supply and a sensitive wetland habitat would be counterproductive to the future health of the region. In other words, if the province, with the aid of the city, were to build this link, they would be sacrificing environmental stability for “car culture.” 

Conclusion

The residents of Lakeview are aware that alternate choices to go through or skirt-by any existing communities are unacceptable. The residents of the entire southwest quadrant, under strong leadership by both Civic and Provincial governments, will have to come to an understanding of how proposed developments and current traffic problems, currently experienced by a large portion of the southwest commuting public, can be handled without sacrificing communities or sensitive parklands for the perceived panacea of a commuter road. 

Update: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 

Reports today in the Calgary Herald suggest that the province is still open to negotiations with the Tsuu T’ina, although not a renegotiation of the prior agreement.  Ed Stelmach was quoted as saying, “we don’t want to impose any major impacts on any communities.”

Update: Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Calgary Herald has run an editorial in todays paper under the headline “Ring road’s shelf life runs out” where they discuss infrastructure alternatives and the Tsuu T’ina.

Update: Monday, October 11, 2010

The Calgary Herald has been running Ward by Ward reviews of the primary issues facing the residents and the candidates responses.  Today, Thanksgiving day, they have arrived at Ward 11 and are (of course) focussed on the Ring Road issue.  The article is titled “Ring road options polarize Ward 11 candidates, residents” (click on title for link).  The article surveys the opinions of the candidates, who offer a variety of solutions, as well as residents, mostly from the south of the reservoir, who are frustrated with the commute.

In a Letter to the Editor (link here), a resident raises the issue that this is no longer a Ring Road but a commuter road that will have similar impacts to those outlined in this article.

CivicCamp will be hosting an aldermanic forum for Ward 11 candidates to be held at the Leacock Theatre, in Mount Royal University on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 7:00 PM, for those who are interested.  See posting here.

Looking ahead… 

Currently, the provincial government has decided to postpone their presentation of possible solutions for the Southwest Ring Road Link by the appointed Study Group until after the Municipal Elections. It is our understanding that after the elections are over, there will be announcements for a series of open houses to take place in late November.

Stay tuned here for updates as they are announced.

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Lindal Heppner,
Oct 6, 2010, 9:58 AM
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