Negotiations are currently ongoing and MLA Dave Rodney says he is hopeful an agreement will soon be made

It’s an issue that goes back 50 years.

Talks of moving forward with the southwest portion of the Calgary ring road have seemed endless and beyond agreeable.

The issue was placed aside in 2009 when the members of Tsuu T’ina Nation voted against the proposed agreement to move forward with building the ring road through their land.

The rejected agreement would have seen a road going through the Tsuu T’ina First Nation, connecting Glenmore Trail and Highway 22X in Calgary’s west side.

Since last summer, negotiations have been ongoing between the city, province and Tsuu T’ina in attempts to revise the agreement to make it more to the nation’s liking.

The ring road is ultimately a provincial responsibility; because the road is considered a highway it falls under the jurisdiction of Alberta’s transportation minister.

The goal is to produce an agreement the Chief-in-council is able to take back to his members for another vote, said Trent Bancarz, spokesperson for Alberta transportation.The ring road would also go through southwest Calgary’s Weaselhead Park.
Photo by: Steve Waldner

“The nation had some concerns over the guarantee of replacement land and other things they felt uneasy about, so we’re having discussion to help clarify these things,” Bancarz said.

Morten Paulsen, spokesperson for the Tsuu T’ina, said while he couldn’t really comment on the issue at this time, there are ongoing negotiations and once there is a resolution they will be announcing it.

Bancarz said he hopes the deal can be modified to everyone’s satisfaction so an agreement can be made.

The finished ring road will provide travelers, as well as the city itself, many benefits.

“It’s also a safer and more efficient way to move around the city and free flowing traffic will be a tremendous boost to Calgary and area,” Bancarz says.

Dave Rodney, the MLA for Calgary-Lougheed, said he is more hopeful than ever this will get done.

To this end, he has tabled a motion in the legislature this spring that states an agreement on the southwest ring road will be reached this calendar year and construction will begin start next calendar year, he said.The Grey Eagle casino may be one of the reasons the Tsuu T’ina nation would be willing to accept a ring road deal, said Dave Rodney.
Photo by: Steve Waldner

This motion will be available to view online in February.

Cec Jahrig, president of southwest Calgary’s Woodcreek Community Association is also optimistic.

“The sooner the better, we’ve dragged on for long enough,” he said. “Let’s get on with it.”

He said right now there isn’t practical access from the south and southwest communities to the city centre, and the only way for people to travel downtown is to come down 37th Street by the First Nations reserve or to go down 14th Street to Macleod Trail.

“Either way traffic bottlenecks coming from the southwest without the ring road on the other side to alleviate traffic,” he said.

The southwest portion of the Calgary ring road has for long been the missing piece.

Rodney said he has five main reasons why he is so confident that after so many years the ring road will become a reality..

1. We have a new premier and minister of transportation

2. New chief with a new mandate to make this agreement happen

3. Lessons learned from previous agreement

4. Tsuu T’ina now has a casino and wants to develop a business park. “Now it’s an urgency for them to have a road, that is a very significant reason to be hopeful,” Rodney said.

5. Sense of urgency in the government

Rodney said the rest of the ring road is nearing completion and has been working well.

“It clears up congestion to make it quicker to get around because vehicles that don’t need to be on city roads can take the ring road highway around the city,” he said.

Although optimism is high, it is likely to still take time, said Alex Broda, a special planning consultant for the province.

“Even when the agreement is reached there are still a number of steps to go through,” Broda said.

But, Rodney won’t let time stand in the way and said he will not be satisfied until Calgarians are driving on the southwest ring road.

For now Rodney continues to work together with the city and province in effort to meet his goal of reaching an agreement with the Tsuu T’ina Nation this year.

giaquinta@cjournal.ca