Calgary’s colossal ring road was pushed closer to completion Friday as major players publicly announced they were endorsing a new deal on the southwest leg.
The province and Tsuu T’ina Nation both declared support for the multi-billion project, which now awaits a federal seal of approval.
Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver told reporters the greenlight could come within a year and the province would then have seven years to open the road — as per a clause in the agreement.
“We’ve still got some hurdles to get over,” McIver said ”But I’m feeling reasonably optimistic the will is there.”
A band spokesman estimated federal approval could come within 18 months.
Earlier in the day, nation Chief Roy Whitney-Onespot confirmed band members have voted to approve freeway project slated to run through their southwest reserve land.
Whitney-Onespot said his membership voted for a “better, more secure future for their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
“If this deal had just been about the road, it would have never been approved,” he told reporters.
The new deal sees the band give up about 425 hectares of land in exchange for $275 million, 2,150 hectares of new real estate and an extra $65 million in compensation.
At a press briefing, Premier Alison Redford recalled bumping into naysayers on the campaign trail who said they’ve been waiting for four decades.
“This is a day that many people in Calgary thought would never come,” she told reporters.
The province must also pay the tab on the southwest interchanges, which were identified in documents as: 130 Avenue, Anderson Road, 90 Avenue, Sarcee Trail and Glenmore Trail, 37th Street and Glenmore Trail, Strathcona Street and Westhills Way.
Building the project will cost “billions” of dollars, she added.
The premier bristled at a question on whether they thought the province was giving up too much.
“It’s not about giving away,” she said. “It’s about negotiating with people that have an asset that they are legally entitled to — that we needed to have in order to keep building our city.”
The province will also buy a corner of the Weaselhead Park from the City of Calgary, according to Alberta’s transportation department.
Documents released Friday show at least three buildings fall in the construction path:
- Sarcee Seven Chiefs Sportsplex
- Chief David Crowchild Building
- Chief Dick Big Plume Building
Government funding is also earmarked for changes to water and sanitary hook-ups around the Tsuu T’ina Nation Culture Museum and Buffalo Run Golf Course.
The band chief confirmed earlier reports that 644 members voted in favour and 280 rejected the provincial offer last night.
It was reported to be the highest voter turnout, but a band spokesman confirmed members were compensated for their vote.
“There was a per-capita distribution,” he said. “But let me ask you this: What was the percentage of people that voted in the civic election in Calgary?”
The announcement marks the first major step forward in ring road negotiations that have stretched five decades. When completed, the road will complete Calgary’s ring road.
Minister McIver said the deal wouldn’t have been done without “the mutual respect and the friendship with the people of Tsuu T’ina.
He also credited the municipal and federal governments for their cooperation.
“This is one of those shining examples of the governments working together to get things done that actually matter to the people,” he said.
There is a seven-day appeal period.
It’s unclear what the band will do with the new property.