The anticipated opening of the final stretch of the southwest ring road has residents elated after years of construction.
The provincial government is set to make an announcement on the roadway on Saturday afternoon, which is expected to be the opening of the stretch between Fish Creek Boulevard and Hwy 22x.
“This is really going to change the traffic patterns considerably as soon as this opens, which is imminent,” Ward 13 city councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart said.
The announcement comes after the 12 kilometers of roadway named Tsuut’ina Trail, between Sarcee Trail and Fish Creek Boulevard, opened in October 2020.
The fully completed roadway, which cost $1.4 billion, will be 31 kilometers long and will connect Highway 8 with Macleod Trail.
According to project officials, it’s anticipated the highway will see between 80,000 and 100,000 vehicles per day over the next 30 years.
“It’s exciting for the city, it’s almost overdue,” regular ring road user Mark Payne told Global News. “I spend as much time with my job in Edmonton as I do in Calgary and I find the fact they have a ring road in Edmonton is certainly a lot easier to get around, saves you on gas, saves you on time.”
The partial re-opening of the roadway has come with challenges, and traffic headaches for communities along the route.
Traffic concerns and speeding vehicles have been reported along several roads that connect with the ring road, including 90 Avenue S.W. and Fish Creek Boulevard.
“We’ve had a ton of traffic coming through our neighbourhood,” area resident Michelle Gelein said. “We’re really looking forward to having it open up here and things to slow down here.”
According to Colley-Urquhart, work still needs to be done on those connector routes, which is a city responsibility along the provincial project.
“There have been some close calls with people trying to move in the crosswalks,” she said. “But it’s going to make a huge difference when all these people that are coming from way up north and trying to go way down south and don’t need to go through these communities anymore.”
Construction on the stretch was made possible by a $341-million land transfer deal between the province and Tsuut’ina Nation in 2013.
When the latest stretch opened last year, it was met with protest due to the re-location of homes in the area.
Cardinal Dodginghorse, who said his family had to move to make way for the project, took to the podium during the official opening ceremony and cut off his braids in opposition of the roadway.
“The ring road is built on my family’s land,” Dodginghorse said at the time. “I want people to understand that land doesn’t always need to be developed in colonial ways.”
The Evergreen Community Association said the opening of the final stretch has been long awaited, and will improve connectivity with other areas of the city.
“Connecting our community to other communities in a shorter length of travel, bringing businesses to the area as well,” Evergreen Community Association President Mohamd Sltan said. “It’s a little bit in the southwest corner of the city so it’s a good impact.”
Several residents have raised concerns throughout the construction process, including noise, dust from a gravel pit in the area and not enough public engagement.
Colley-Urquhart said she’d like to see the gravel pit turned into a dog park in the future, and said those concerns from residents need to be addressed.
“I’m really unhappy with the way they were treated. The public engagement came up short,” Colley-Urquhart said. “Off-ramps coming just meters from their house, their property values have fallen, the sound barriers have not been put up yet, the berms have not been constructed high enough.”
“So it isn’t all peaches and cream for everybody that has had to endure the prolonged years of construction to get this done.”
Once completed, the ring road will include between a six and and eight-lane divided highway, 14 interchanges, 47 bridges, one road flyover, one railway flyover, a tunnel, as well as three crossings over the Elbow River and Fish Creek.
According to the province, the west end of the ring road is expected to open in 2024, and the South Bow River bridge project is anticipated to be completed in October 2023.
— with files from Global News’ Christa Dao and Carolyn Kury de Castillo