The provincial government says construction on the southwest portion of Calgary's ring road will start next year.

Under its agreement with the Tsuu T'ina Nation, the province must complete the stretch of ring road on former reserve land within seven years or the land goes back to the First Nation.

Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason says the government will immediately ask companies interested in building the road to submit their qualifications. And while he says it's not his preference, the project will proceed as a P-3 — a public-private partnership.

"Time is of the essence. My department has indicated to me that switching horses at this point in time, would result in missing a full season. So we expect to complete this section in six years. We have seven."

The province has applied for more than half a billion dollars from the federal government to help pay for the mega-project, which connects Highway 8 to Highway 22X.

Peter Manywounds, CEO of Tsuu T'ina Nation, said he was pleased with government commitment to complete ring road. 

No word on west leg

Mason says he can't offer a timeframe now on building the west leg of the ring road from Highway 8 to Highway 1. He says that decision will depend on the province's finances.

Wildrose MLA Leela Aheer says the government should complete the entire ring road at once.

"If they're going doing this leg already, it would make sense to include that other portion, especially if they making applications for all of the funding, it would really be nice to have that included."

City councillor Ward Sutherland agrees.

"We know that the costing is down and now's the time to spend money for infrastructure. We have the companies available to do it…And we're going to get it at a lower price, so even if you have to borrow, it makes good financial sense to do so."

Southwest Ring Road map - new

The future southwest ring road is indicated in light blue. (Government of Alberta)