Taking an inaugural drive down Tsuut’ina Trail was well worth the wait, say Calgarians who live near the newly opened southwest portion of the ring road.
Evergreen Community Association president Mohamd Sltan hit the road shortly after the 12-kilometre stretch between Glenmore Trail and Sarcee Trail and Fish Creek Boulevard officially opened to traffic Thursday .
He said a trip to Signal Hill took him less than 15 minutes, a drive that would previously have taken twice as long.
“It was an amazing drive,” Sltan said. “When I see everything, how the dots are connected, it’s amazing. The scenery is great. It’s really well-made.”
The route has been a long time in the making, with discussions on a ring road around Calgary dating back 70 years . The southwest segment is the next step toward a completed, 101-kilometre highway looping around the city.
The segment connecting the south end of the new leg to Highway 22X is expected to be completed in about a year, while a connection from Highway 1 to Glenmore Trail will be completed by October 2024 at the latest, according to the province.
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas lives in the southwest community of Palliser, just south of the Glenmore Reservoir.
He said he’s already driven Tsuut’ina Trail several times, and while he’s pleased with the road he isn’t celebrating yet.
“I’ve been landlocked by years and years of construction, so it’s been nice to finally have some freedom, like a lot of my constituents,” he said.
“I think it’s a great first step. It’s not finished yet. Once the connections are made going north to Highway 1 as well as south to 22X, that’s going to give us the functionality that Calgary needs.”
While many are lauding the new stretch of Stoney Trail, there have been some significant bumps in the road for some Calgarians . Margaret Anderson’s Woodbine house backs onto the freeway, with design changes pushing an interchange ramp less than 50 metres from her property. Noise from the freeway has been constant, with vibrations sometimes even shaking water pitchers inside the house.
The noise concern is elevated for Anderson because she has a cognitively-disabled daughter who has seizures thought to be triggered by sleep deprivation.
“I love the property, but I go outside and sometimes I can’t breathe because the air smells so bad, the continual traffic is waking us at night,” Anderson said. “The health impact of living within 50 to 100 metres of a freeway, it’s not safe. And the thing that’s really frustrating is that it didn’t have to be this way.”
Anderson said she wasn’t against the ring road but thinks it should have been constructed with more consideration for nearby residents. She plans to plant trees, install air filters and replace windows in her house to help reduce noise, expenses that will come out of her own pocket.
The province could still alleviate some concerns by restoring a berm in the area, building a fence and constructing a sound wall for Woodbine residents, she said.
“I can’t believe that they in good conscience could open this road next to a pedestrian pathway where families with little children walk without putting a safety fence up,” Anderson said.
Sltan said the southwest ring road stretch was important for his community and has been embraced by “a majority” of Evergreen residents.
“We know it’s a well-needed artery,” he said. “Some people are worried it will create some congestion but, obviously, you need some compromise.”
The new road is on land the province purchased from Tsuut’ina Nation in 2013, a transfer approved by the federal government in 2015. In total, its construction cost $1.4 billion.
Farkas said he believed the opening of the road marked a significant moment for the economies of both Calgary and the Tsuut’ina Nation.
“It’s really been nice to see this come to fruition. It’s not just a road, it’s enabling our economic success into the future,” he said.
“It’s frankly been very exciting to see new development on the Tsuut’ina Nation unfold. More than that is the fact that it’s going to bring prosperity to both communities going forward.”
At a news conference Thursday to mark the opening of the road, Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse protested the opening of the freeway by cutting off his braids, saying his family had to leave their home for the construction of the road, which passes over traditional Indigenous land.
“Imagine your home and your history being removed all in the name of progress,” he said at the time.