Here we go again — Ring Road Interrupted.
It’s a sequel that shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise after a half-century of false starts and multiple returns to the drawing board.
But I’ll admit to being in the camp of those who believed that a draft agreement reached in March between the province and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation allowing the southwest ring road to be in place by 2015 was the magic bullet.
Turns out it may be the final nail in the coffin.
Chief Sandford Big Plume was very clear when he announced the band would accept the deal, worth a reported $500 million in land and cash, that it would be up to a vote of less than 1,000 members and a negative tally would mean there would be no future negotiations for Tsuu T’ina land.
More than 60 per cent decided the agreement didn’t fill the bill and with no feasible backup plan in place, the entire process seems to be in limbo. It’s not unlike a multimillion-dollar game of chutes and ladders — without the ladders.
So where do we go from here?
Without the Tsuu T’ina’s future co-operation the options narrow exponentially.
Skirting outside the city’s boundaries would be very difficult with Tsuu T’ina land stretching some 30 kilometres to the south and the west. The only other option to provide an unbroken circuit along the city’s periphery could be to resurrect plans that were shelved in 2001.
Among the many controversial recommendations in that document were plans to extend 37 St. S.W. through the sensitive Weaselhead natural area with either a bridge or tunnel.
Whether the choice is a three-kilometre span or a tunnel of similar length through the area, the potential opposition could make Tsuu T’ina’s lack of flexibility seem positively accommodating. And the expansion of 37 Street to highway size would also likely require the expropriation of many Lakeview homes.
Never an easy process.
Whatever concerns that may have lingered over exploring options beyond those available on Tsuu T’ina lands need to be dismissed, and quickly.
The city’s future transportation planning doesn’t call for the expansion of existing thoroughfares within the city, so the ring road will be an essential route to help quell gridlock.
This has already gone on for 51 years so it’s up to the province and city to do whatever it takes to bring the ring.