With the west leg of Calgary’s Ring Road approved but far from being started, the city must look at options to ease congestion on Sarcee Trail in the interim.
Residents along both sides of the Sarcee Trail corridor, in communities such as Patterson on the west, Westgate and Wildwood on the east, already experience lengthy rush hour waits at Sarcee Trail and Bow Trail South West.
A committee was struck to review possible infrastructure upgrades that will help ease traffic concerns while the Ring Road is being planned and constructed.
It is expected that the west leg of the Ring Road will get underway in 2021. The west leg is north of Glenmore Trail and south of the Trans-Canada Highway. The South West portion which must go through First Nations land, which is a 15 km stretch, will be done first. It is the longer of the two arteries.
The Tsuu Tina First Nation, the provincial and federal governments reached a consensus after 60 years of planning to allow this vital part of Calgary road infrastructure to be built. The south west ring road would traverse Fish Creek Provincial Park west of 37 St SW. The Nation voted several times on the deal which provided extra land for that which will be taken up by the Ring Road. The motion was approved in 2014.
However, this means that traffic from this first stretch will flow onto Sarcee and Glenmore Trails from the time of completion in 2021, to 2024 or 2025 when the west leg is eventually done.
With congestion already a concern, the extra traffic five to 8 years from now is extremely worrisome to City of Calgary infrastructure planners.
According to a recent traffic impact report, volume of traffic on this road could increase by as much as 25% without the west leg of the Ring Road completed.
A committee spokesperson said that significant investment to the existing infrastructure must be put in place.
There were 10 different plans or scenarios presented for possible improvements to Sarcee Trail, at a cost of $10 million to $250 million. Of the 10 plans drawn, three were identified as viable and include improvements to Richmond Road and Bow Trail.
Possible improvements include the construction of interchanges at Sarcee and Bow Trail, and another at Sarcee and Richmond Road by West Hills Shopping Centre. Sarcee Trail would also be widened on the stretch between the two roadways. The price tag for this option is $250 million.
Another less-pricey option, at $130 million, is to build just one interchange at Richmond Road and have lane reversal in effect on Bow Trail. Sarcee Trail would also be widened between Richmond Road and Bow Trail.
The third least costly alternative would be to build a Richmond Road/Sarcee Trail interchange , and set up Bow Trail for lane reversal during peak hours, but not widen Sarcee Trail. The cost for this third option would be $75 million.
City of Calgary councilor Richard Pootmans said that there will be no movement on the project until 2017 or 2018.