Ring road leaves business owners feeling trapped
Renata D'Aliesio Calgary Herald Thursday, March 29, 2007
A group of Calgary business owners is calling for a redesign of the northeast ring road, contending changes to construction plans will leave them isolated. The owners intend to confront the province and its private partner in the development, the Stoney Trail Group, at an open house today in the centre court of Sunridge Mall. Earlier government plans for the ring road included several access points for businesses and residents along 84th Street N.E. -- the city's eastern boundary.
But late in the fall, Hugh Short of Hi-Hog Farm & Ranch Equipment learned those access points had been scaled back, which will force vehicles coming in and out of his business to travel a roundabout route. He's worried this added obstacle will hurt his and other businesses. "There has been no thought about the businesses and residents that this proposal has completely landlocked," he charged Wednesday. "Essentially, they have cut off any link to the city for us."
Plans for the Calgary ring road have been in the works for years, said Jerry Bellikka, spokesman for Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation. He said the province has consulted businesses and city officials extensively, and all aspects of the project have been considered. "We did open houses for three years. We're a little late in the process for a redesign," Bellikka said.
"I'm just surprised those concerns are coming forward now, especially from city hall. "City hall has been on board with this project," said Bellikka. Not all members of city council have been on board with the Alberta government's ring road designs. Every leg of the road being built to ease traffic pressure has been contested.
Mayor Dave Bronconnier has been a strong supporter of the road, which will eventually encircle Calgary and steer traffic away from increasingly congested routes such as Deerfoot Trail and 16th Avenue N. Several alderman, however, have raised concerns about aspects of the plan. Ald. Helen Larocque and Ald. Andre Chabot said Wednesday they share the access concerns of businesses and residents in the northeast.
Construction of this 21-kilometre section of the project is slated to begin next month. Both aldermen continue to seek a redesign. "It's very problematic for those businesses on 84th Street," Larocque said. Bellikka said today's open house, which runs from 2 to 8 p.m. at Sunridge Mall, is part of the province's continuing effort to inform residents of the project. Last month, the Alberta government announced it had reached a public-private partnership agreement to build the northeast leg. Larry Graham, owner of Graham Auctions, said original plans led businesses to believe they would still have access to routes such as McKnight Boulevard and an extended 32nd Street. Once the ring road is built, however, vehicles will no longer be able to reach these roads or the Trans-Canada Highway directly from 84th Street N.E., Graham said.
Chabot said residents of a mobile home park, destined to be sandwiched between the ring road and 84th, are worried about potential delays for emergency workers. Calgary's northeast is home to several sour gas wells.
"When you are talking about EMS, fire and police, seconds matter," Chabot said. "Why should we (the city) be the ones holding the bag?
"We need to look at this longer term."
© The Calgary Herald 2007