Massive amounts of earth are being moved every day around what will — in four years — be Calgary’s southwest ring road.
The dry summer has been good for construction on the $1.4-billion project with work on many of the 14 interchanges and 47 bridges now underway.
A new channel for the 1.4-kilometre stretch of the Elbow River was built in the spring to accommodate construction. By April 2018, the river will flow down its new path.
But part of the project is now delayed by an appeal that will be heard on Oct. 12.
A stay was issued in August after concerns were brought up about the construction’s effects on wetlands.
The group opposing the current bridge design wants a one-kilometre bridge that would be higher and longer, but Alberta Transportation says its design is safer and cheaper.
“There’s a number of reasons why that’s not the better choice,” said Adam Johnson with Alberta Transportation, referring to the request to build the longer span over the whole valley.
“It’s much less safe. More prone to icing, there would be drainage issues and it could lead to water quality issues.”
“Ours is a design that has been proven time and again by various studies by Alberta Transportation,” Johnson added. “The hydraulic capacity will continue to avoid flooding and the measures that we have put in place will continue keep the water quality safe.”
The Environmental Appeal Board says even though the project was approved by Alberta Environment, companies need to expect appeals especially when it comes to wetlands where damage can’t be reversed.
“In the case of where work is being done on a wetland, that’s one of the few things that are very difficult to undo the work, which is why the board has granted a stay respecting construction related to four of the 24 wetlands on the project,” said Environmental Appeals Board general counsel and settlement officer Gilbert Van Nes.
KGL, the consortium building the ring road, originally estimated the stay would cost them $100,000 per day, but the current appeal only involves four wetlands down from the original 24. That means the cost is likely to be much less, according to Van Nes.
The province says it has not yet received a claim from KGL regarding possible cost overruns.
“We are still assessing the impacts of the stay,” KGL public relations manager Ian McColl said. “We are primarily focused on successfully progressing the project on behalf of Alberta Transportation.”
The project is still on schedule to be complete in fall 2021.