When is Enough, Enough? Weaselhead Flats and the Ring Road

Posted February 22, 2011
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When is enough, enough?

It's time to talk about the southwest ring road, again

The southwest ring road is a massive infrastructure project for Calgary that has come up time and time again, but no plan has yet to be put in place for it's construction. Calgarians have been presented with five proposed options for it's route, and open houses will be run to seek input on them. Take a look:

Routes

After all this time, this is what's on the table. What would you say is the obvious choice? Route number 4? That's certainly the way this study has framed the choices, and many are in support of the route, and why not? The first three options might as well not even be there, as they score two red boxes for the objectives of the ring road itself. Route number 4 only has one red box, the least impacted communities, and the lowest dollar signs. It seems pretty simple on paper. But what is that red box? Well, it represents the destruction of the Weaselhead Flats area, featured at the top of this article, to make route number 4 a reality. Maybe that should justify a darker shade of red, I don't know.

 

More than a red box

I'm certain those in support of tearing up the Weaselhead Flats to run an eight lane freeway through it have probably never been there. Because if you've been to the Weaselhead Flats, you'd know just how destructive a freeway through it would be. The area is home the largest coniferous forest in Calgary, as well as a fantastic spot for bird watching and wild life sightings. It is Calgary's only wetland river delta. Perhaps the real tragedy is that there are those who are enthusiastic to rip up the area to drive their cars through it at 100kmph that couldn't be bothered to visit the Flats in it's current pristine condition on foot or bicycle.

 

Fixing bad planning with bad planning

The 'need' for a ring road comes from the large amounts of congestion in southwest Calgary. Poorly planned sprawl of Calgary's south created the problem, so are poorly planned freeways the answer? Geographical confinement of cities leads to better planning and land use, because there's no alternative. Instead of considering plowing through Weaselhead Flats as the easiest option on the table, it shouldn't be an option at all.

There is a need to alleviate congestion in Calgary, but not necessarily a need for a ring road. Mayor Nenshi has agreed the proposed options are no good and is looking at alternative ways to alleviate congestion, and we need to. If we look to freeways as our only traffic solution, and environmental destruction as its easiest implementation, what kind of city will we be left with? I'm all for progress, but progress is not just a freeway and we can't afford to have that narrow minded a vision.