Hundreds of people gathered at the Cedarbrae community centre Tuesday night to get an update from the province about plans for Calgary’s southwest ring road.
Some of them say they’re worried about the impact the project will have on the Weaselhead Flats.
The $5-billion ring road will stretch from Highway 22x up to Highway 8 along the city's western edge — skirting Tsuu T’ina First Nation territory and the southwest corner of the Weaselhead area — and then continue north using the 101st Street corridor through to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Weaselhead/Glenmore Park Preservation Society executive director Lisa Dahlseide wants the province to reconsider its plans for the Weaselhead section where the road will cross the Elbow River.
“It is filling in the riparian area, rerouting the river, and putting it through a tiny little hole,” she said.
Plans call for a five-lane southbound bridge and a four-lane northbound bridge over the Elbow River. Part of the river will also be realigned to accommodate the freeway.
“So that does concern us,” said Dahlseide.
“We know the technology exists to build it better. We can have something that is open-span where the river can freely migrate, where wildlife can freely walk through and where flooding can occur without being restricted as well."
Road cannot be moved, says province
But Garry Lamb, the urban construction manager for Alberta Transportation, said the deal worked out with the Tsuu T’ina First Nation requires the route to cut through a portion of the park.
"I think the bringing of an urban freeway near a quiet environmental area is an area of concern for many people,” he said.
“But the alignment is fixed because of the agreement we have with Tsuu T’ina First Nation, so we can't move the road, so the road will go where it's going.”
Earlier this year, the province announced the new 31-kilometre stretch of ring road will be constructed as two projects — a southwest section from Highway 22x to 69th Street, mostly on Tsuu T’ina lands, and a west section, mostly within city limits, from 69th Street to Highway 1.
The Tsuu T’ina agreed to transfer 428 hectares of land to Alberta so the ring road could be built. In compensation, the province will transfer 2,160 hectares of new reserve land worth an estimated $44 million.
In addition to land, the province will give the band $275 million and pay roughly $66 million to replace housing and other buildings that will have to be torn down to make way for the ring road.
The province anticipates having shovels in the ground by early 2016.