A portion of Calgary’s southwest ring road that borders a neighbouring First Nation is open for business.
A 12-kilometre section of Tsuut’ina Trail running between Sarcee Trail and Fish Creek Boulevard opened to traffic on Thursday.
Members of Tsuut’ina First Nation including Chief Roy Whitney, representatives from the Alberta government including Premier Jason Kenney and Transportation Minister Ric McIver, and members from the City of Calgary including Mayor Naheed Nenshi were on hand at the Anderson Road interchange to make the announcement.
Whitney said the road will help bring prosperity to the First Nation.
“It’s considered a freeway that will create economic opportunities for the nation and for future generations and it will create jobs – high-paying jobs — for our community moving forward.”
Whitney thanked his community for its patience and vision in voting nearly 80 per cent in favour of building the ring road on First Nation land.
Kenney, then an MP for Calgary-Southeast, made the federal funding announcement in June 2015 with Nenshi. In a previous term as transportation minister in 2013 under the Progressive Conservative government, McIver signed the land use agreement with the Tsuut’ina First Nation.
“It’s pretty cool to see things that you announce as concepts actually become asphalt and become big infrastructure that will improve people’s lives,” the premier said.
Tsuut’ina Trail will stretch between Macleod Trail and 69 Street S.W. It’s about 80 per cent complete, with the rest to be finished by fall 2021.
The choice for the name of the southwest ring road was never in question.
“Part of the agreement that was never, ever in dispute was the nation was going to name this piece of road,” McIver said.
The project broke ground in 2016 and has created about 2,000 jobs.
But Nenshi said local historian Jesse Salus told him conversations about the road date back to 1952.
“And while that’s a huge portion of the history of Calgary, about half of the history of the city of Calgary, it’s a blink of an eye in the history of the Tsuut’ina nation,” the mayor said.
Braids cut in protest
The proceedings began with an Indigenous prayer for safe travel along Tsuut’ina Trail. But one member of the First Nation spoke out in protest of the project on Thursday.
“The ring road is built on my family’s land.”
Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse shared how his family’s home of five generations on Weaselhead Road had to be abandoned for the freeway.
“This is the land that I also grew up on, and I was intending for my future generations to preserve and hold,” Dodginghorse said Thursday.
The 26-year-old man shared his and his mother’s feelings of powerlessness in the decision-making process with regard to the southwest portion of the ring road.
Dodginghorse said his family will be mourning the construction of Tsuut’ina Trail “for years.”
He then cut off his braids in protest, leaving them on the bridge as the press conference continued.
Calgary’s west ring road is currently under construction with an estimated completion date of 2024. The west ring road is the final section of the freeway designed to circumnavigate parts of the city.