Commuter shortcut from downtown to close for Calgary Zoo berm construction

CALGARY — A popular commuter shortcut out of downtown will close for the next two winters, to make way for a major flood mitigation project at the Calgary Zoo.

No traffic will be allowed on Zoo Road from January to June 2016 and during fall and winter of 2017.

The 12 Street bridge between the Zoo’s south entrance to Inglewood will also be closed during those periods, except to zoo service vehicles.

Crews need the closure to to build a one-metre berm and wall around Zoo Island, complete with a pumping system and below-ground steel sheets.

“The equipment that we’re using to install these steel sheets down to bedrock is actually the width of the road itself,” said Emma Stevens, spokesperson for Transportation and Infrastructure with the City of Calgary. “The machinery required for this project is massive.”

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The roughly $25-million mitigation project should offer the Calgary Zoo slightly more than one in 100 year flood protection.

In 2013, the zoo suffered $50 million in damage, and some animals died.

Statistically, it’s vulnerable to flooding every 20 years.

“That could mean a lot of rebuilding and fixing pretty frequently if we don’t protect it for the long-term,” said Stevens.

When three o’clock hits, this downtown escape route is instantly jammed, so the idea of closing Zoo Road is unpopular.

“Well, that’s stupid,” said Ray Hunt, who spent the afternoon checking out the nearby St. Patrick’s Island Park.

“I kind of like this road, I use it all the time,” added an afternoon commuter passing by in his truck.

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But the city thinks commuters will simply find other routes instead of Zoo Road.

“As far as network connectivity goes, it’s real nice to have for the zoo and the businesses in Inglewood, but it’s not a ‘need to have’,” said Gian-Carlo Carra, who represents the area on city council.

There is no impact for the zoo, and the road and bridge will re-open during summer months.

Visitors to nearby St. Patrick’s Island will still have access to its parking lot from the west end of Zoo Road, just off Memorial Drive.

The project is expected to wrap up by spring 2018, in time for the opening of the giant panda exhibit.

The city has applied for provincial funding to offset the cost.

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The city is holding a public information session about the project on Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Alexandra Centre, 922 9 Ave S.E., from 5p.m. to 8 p.m. You can also provide feedback by calling 311.

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