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Calgary planning: Mistakes and missed opportunities – Part 4

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There are some mistakes made in every city in North America that came of age in the middle of the 20th century. Things like segregated land-use and zoning (i.e. building residential here and industrial there), the design of suburban communities and abandoning transit in favour of auto-oriented development.  

Over the past several months I have had conversations with Art Froese (Planning Director 1983 to 1988), Bob Holmes (Planning Commissioner, 1988 to 2001), Richard Parker (City planner from 1974 to 2003, Director of Planning from 1988 to 2003) and Barry Lester (private sector engineer in Calgary since 1978), as well as several other architects, engineers, planners and developers who have played a role in shaping our City. 

RELATED: Calgary planning: Mistakes and missed opportunities – Urban renewal

MMI – Part 2University of Calgary / Foothills Medical Centre

‘Finally’ getting roadway network up to par

Art Froese thinks it was a mistake to “create the zoning for today’s mega SE industrial district in the 1960s, (the catalyst for transforming Calgary into one of North America’s major inland ports today), without developing a plan to provide the road infrastructure needed to support the transport truck traffic.”

“As a result, only now is the city finally getting the roadway network where it needs to be,” he said.

Bob Holmes said given Calgary’s downtown has a dedicated division in the city’s planning department, Calgary’s industrial areas deserve at least an independent team working on their unique development standards, approvals, infrastructure and other issues.

He wonders, “Why are so many large commercial and industrial projects now locating in Rockyview?”

The spaghetti-like interchange at Memorial/Bow/Crowchild/Kensington Road is a mess. It’s a series of make-shift changes that never anticipated Crowfoot Trail would become the primary transportation link for three hospitals, two major post-secondary schools and numerous private schools. 

And who thought our downtown would grow to be home to over 150,000 employees? 

Deerfoot Trail / Glenmore Trail

Deerfoot Trail was built without sufficient length merge lanes for a freeway. Narrowing to two lanes of through traffic at Glenmore Trail was a huge mistake.  The sharp turn and exits and entrance at Bow Bottom Trail and Anderson Road are a nightmare. 

To be fair says Froese, “the sophistication of freeway design in Calgary and around the world in the late 1960s was not what it is today. There was no computer modeling. The truck traffic from the warehouse and distribution centers east of Deerfoot Trail wasn’t anticipated.”

While some would say fewer freeways the better, Barry Lester a former VP at Stantec who has been involved in building Calgary’s infrastructure since 1978 thinks “the City’s decision to not build the 50th Ave Freeway was a mistake.  It would have not only served Foothills Industrial Park, but relieved the pressure off of Glenmore Trail. 

“Given Calgary’s strong east/west traffic flow of commuters and commercial traffic, and the location of the Glenmore Reservoir, a second east/west freeway would have created a more efficient and environmentally friendly transit, truck and car connection,” Lester said.

Richard Parker still thinks there is an opportunity to use the 50 Avenue right of way as a transit-only link from a new LRT station at 50 Avenue to Mount Royal University.

Lester also felt it was mistake not to build a bridge connecting Sarcee Trail from the north and south side of the Bow River, taking the pressure off of Crowchild Trail to provide access to Foothills Medical Centre and University of Calgary from the southwest.

“It could have been a signature bridge all Calgary’s could have been proud of,” he said.

Calgary’s northwest LRT route

Art Froese laments that the original NW LRT route through the University of Calgary was not built. 

The original plans had underground LRT along 16 Avenue coming up near McMahon Stadium. It then proceeded through the middle of campus. 

Today it’s a long, cold winter walk from the University LRT station to the middle of campus. 

Parker concurs with NW leg route mistake.

He said it was also a mistake to build the West Leg of the LRT before what was then called the SE LRT (now part of the Green Line).

“Research showed the latter would have attracted more ridership due to the demographics of the residential communities and the number of employment hubs that it would pass through.”