Calgary’s southwest ring road is now a 31-kilometer stretch of open highway.
The province opened another stretch of the southwest ring road on Saturday, completing one of the final portions in the $1.42 billion transportation project.
The only remaining portion is the west link, which will be opened in 2024.
The opening now fully connects Highway 8 on the west side of Calgary to Macleod Trail (Highway 2A) in the south. It’s a total of 31 kilometres of roadway. In that stretch, there are 49 bridges and 14 interchanges.
“I’m really happy that we’ve gotten here and happy about what this road represents, and what it symbolizes,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Mayor Nenshi said that he lives on the other corner of the city, but right next to Stoney Trail in the northeast. He said he had the opportunity to drive most of the road Saturday.
“I had an opportunity to ride most of the road today and to have an opportunity to see how it really is knitting together important parts of our community,” he said.
Former Transportation Minister and current Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has been shepherding the ring road project forward since he was a Calgary city councillor.
“I believe this will give the greatest gift you can give people, to give them time,” McIver said during Saturday’s event.
“People in Calgary using this part of the road to commute or visit their family and friends will have more time to spend in whatever way they choose.”
Partnership with Tsuut’ina
Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney acknowledged the land the roadway was built on and the contributions of Tsuut’ina Nation members.
“We couldn’t have reached this milestone without the support of our stakeholders and our long-standing relationship with Chief Roy Whitney and the Tsuut’ina nation,” she said.
Mayor Nenshi also acknowledged the partnership with the Tsuut’ina Nation. He said it’s been his honour to work with three different Chiefs and the Tsuut’ina council. Nenshi also acknowledged different points of view on the construction.
Nenshi specifically addressed concerns from Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse. Dodginghorse attended the event Saturday. When the previous southwest stretch was opened, Dodginghorse protested the opening by cutting off his braid.
“I’m glad you’re here and I’m glad you’re presenting a point of view. Ultimately we are in a world where we’ve got to figure out what it means to go from reconciliation to reconcili-action,” Nenshi said directly to Dodginghorse.
He noted that the Elders and Knowledge Keepers approved the project, as did 75 per cent of Nation members.
“Ultimately we also have to listen to the entire community that made a statement about wanting to get out of poverty, about wanting to develop economically and about wanting to build new relationships with their neighbours, and I welcome that statement,” Nenshi said.
Sawhney said Calgarians have been waiting for one of the province’s largest-ever infrastructure projects.
“Calgarians have been waiting for five long years. They have endured construction detours and construction. But the wait was definitely worth it,” she said.