Ring road could force early start on Sarcee Trail's $106M interchange at Richmond Road

Councillors are interested in seeing a new interchange at Sarcee Trail and Richmond Road built in tandem with the S.W. ring road.

S.W. ring road expected to dump additional traffic onto Sarcee Trail, clog bottleneck at Richmond Road

A diagram shows the proposed interchange at Sarcee Trail and Richmond Road. (City of Calgary)

Some city councillors are afraid the southwest ring road may create a major traffic headache on Sarcee Trail unless the city moves a new interchange up its priority list.

The signalized intersection at Sarcee Trail and Richmond Road is already nearing capacity.

But there are concerns that when the new southwest ring road is complete, it will result in additional traffic funnelling through that intersection.

The city has plans for an interchange at the site that would see Richmond Road traffic on an overpass above Sarcee and the traffic on Sarcee free-flow through that area.

However, that comes with a price: $106 million is the current estimate.

The project isn't currently a candidate for funding.

But council's transportation and transit committee heard Thursday a tentative design has been picked, and council could decide in this fall's budget discussions to move the project onto the city's capital project list.

'Critical piece of infrastructure'

Area councillor Jeff Davison said he's fully behind making this interchange a priority.

"This is a critical piece of infrastructure that Ward 6 needs, and frankly, the city needs," said Davison. 

"There's going to be a massive increase in volume of traffic once the ring road is built and we need to start taking proactive measures to deal with that now."

A perspective sketch shows the proposed interchange at Sarcee Trail SW, looking south. (City of Calgary)

His ideal situation would have the new interchange open at the same time as the southwest ring road. That provincial mega-project is currently slated to be done by the end of 2021.

"I'm going to look to this fall to make sure it's highly prioritized in the capital budget and moves forward," he said.

Another councillor, Evan Woolley, also sees a need for the interchange given the traffic that will be coming off of the ring road. 

But he's not happy about the city potentially spending $106 million on it.

Can it be built for less money?

Woolley plans to push for ways to simplify the project and save money — while still aiming to have traffic on Sarcee be free-flowing in that area once the ring road is complete.

Coun. Evan Woolley plans to push for the interchange project to be simplified. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

"When we use highway and particularly a lot of these provincial highway specs on roads, it's for cars turning corners at 80 km/h. Maybe that doesn't have to happen," said Woolley. 

A report to the committee indicated that if funded, construction on the Sarcee-Richmond interchange could start in 2019 with the goal of it being done in 2021.

City council will discuss the report later this month.