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Southwest portion of Calgary ring road plans unveiled

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Provincial officials have revealed images of southwest and west Calgary ring roads, which could be open for tender in 2015, and potentially open to traffic as early as 2021.

Provincial officials have revealed images of southwest and west Calgary ring roads, which could be open for tender in 2015, and potentially open to traffic as early as 2021.

Currently, the Province is waiting on a land transfer between the federal government and the Tsuu T’ina nation, which was agreed upon last year.

The agreement would give the Tsuu T’ina 2,030 hectares of land and $275 million in exchange for 428 hectares for the road.

“We’re hoping that land transfer occurs next year, which would allow us to move to the procurement phase for the southwest project,” said Garry Lamb, urban construction manager at Alberta Transportation.

Once the land is transferred, the Province has seven years to construct the ring road, though Lamb estimates the project will reach completion before that.

The final leg of the ring road has been split into two projects because market research indicated the size of the 31-kilometre stretch was larger than industry leaders could handle as one project, Lamb said.

“Building the last leg of the ring road in two projects should make the bidding process more competitive, and give opportunities to contractors of all sizes to pursue these projects,” Lamb said.

Contractors needed for this project will include design-engineering consortiums, construction, grading, paving and electrical contractors, and those who specialize in erosion and sediment control.

“We know that discussion is happening already. They’re trying to get themselves ready for when we move into the procurement phase,” he said.

The southwest portion of the ring road will consist of six to eight lanes of freeway over 16 kilometres of new road, including 37 bridges from 69th Street and Glenmore Trail to Macleod Trail.

“It will have one rail underpass, which will be a unique structure designed to accommodate the future extension of Calgary’s LRT,” Lamb said. “This is one example where we’re working with the City to make sure this project not only meets the province’s needs for the ring road but also the city’s future requirements for their infrastructure.”

Lamb estimated upwards of 80 - 100,000 vehicles a day will use the southwest segment of the ring road.

A big challenge will be the Elbow River crossing, between 90th Avenue and Glenmore Trail, Lamb explained. The Elbow River is the source of half of Calgary’s drinking water, and on the edge of the Weaselhead Flats, a 237-hectare natural area.

The ring road will impact approximately one square mile of Weaselhead land, Lamb said.

“Unfortunately, the Weaselhead will be different than before this road gets built,” he said. “I can’t say it won’t have impacts in that respect.”

Lamb noted the Weaselhead Flats were somewhat created by the construction of the Glenmore dam in the 1930s. “So, man has had an impact on the Weaselhead before and unfortunately will continue to have an impact as we move forward,” he said.

Lamb also suggested that the Elbow River will have to be re-aligned in that area to provide safe crossing for the ring road.

“The Elbow River meanders quite a bit in that area, we’ve seen a lot of the changes in that area since last year’s flood,” he said.

“One of the challenges will be to create a river crossing that stays in one place safely, so the road isn’t impacted by major events like last year’s flood.”

The project will also see major upgrading to the Trans-Canada Trail and Stoney Trail interchange, to allow the ring road to go over the Paskapoo slopes. The Paskapoo slopes is a natural area encompassing approximately 2.5 miles between the Patterson Heights community and Canada Olympic Park on Calgary’s west side.

The slopes include wooded areas and 49 sites of archaeological importance, according to the Paskapoo Slopes Preservation Society.

“We will be removing approximately 5 million cubic metres of dirt from the top of the Paskapoo slopes to lower the grade of the road, and that might include 2 million cubic metres of rock,” Lamb said.

“We can get the grade down to four and a half per cent. It is currently at over seven per cent grade, which isn’t acceptable for that kind of freeway system.”

The southwest portion of Calgary’s ring road will give people more options to move through the city now, said Julie Radke, project manager for the Southwest Ring Road Integration Project.

“It does have the potential to alleviate traffic on adjacent roads such as 14th Street or Macleod Trail,” he said.

Calgary’s ring road is currently 70 per cent complete. When finished, the ring road will offer motorists more than 100 kilometres of free-flow travel.

by Jessica Patterson

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