Transportation infrastructure is one of the biggest responsibilities of government. Safely and efficiently moving people and goods throughout our country is a shared responsibility that blends through Municipal, Provincial and Federal jurisdictions. This shared responsibility is why building strong partnerships to deliver critical infrastructure is so important.
I cannot think of a more pressing issue facing southeast Calgary than transportation. Southeast Calgary is home to some of the fastest growing communities in Alberta. Growth has put additional strain on the limited transportation infrastructure that many of these communities have access to. These new communities are expanding rapidly, and I believe that is a good thing. These are areas that make for a more complete city by offering more housing options for all income levels. With the addition of appropriate public investments we can ensure these areas reach their full potential.
Given the budgetary realities facing our Municipal and Provincial governments right now, finding value for money is incredibly important. There is a limited amount of funds available, and we need to ensure they are allocated appropriately. This means finding ways to cut costs and even exploring partnerships with the private sector.
The 212th Avenue/Deerfoot Trail interchange is one project that offers a tremendous amount of value for public dollars. This interchange would connect south Cranston to south Seton with access to Deerfoot Trail. I have outlined the general location of the interchange in the map below:
This project offers a number of benefits:
- Support for existing communities. South Cranston has seen a lot of development in the last number of years. Currently residents in south Cranston need to drive north to the Cranston Ave/Seton Blvd interchange in order to access Deerfoot Trail or Stoney Trail. This creates an undesirable situation where drivers cross through residential streets in order to find an access point. The 212 interchange would provide some much needed traffic calming for Cranston.
- Unlocking Seton. Seton is going to be one of the most exciting areas in Calgary. Very large public and private investments have been made in this area. These investments will make Seton an area of tremendous regional importance. We recently broke ground on the Seton recreation centre (opening in 2018) which is in close proximity to the site of the new Southeast Public High School (opening fall of 2018). Both of these facilities are in the shadow of the biggest public investment in the area; the South Health Campus. As it currently stands there is only a single interchange that services this area. Without the addition of a new interchange at 212th Avenue, Seton will take much longer to reach full potential.
- Improving Access. Stoney Trail is an asset to southeast Calgary, but due to the area master-plan there are some challenges with the interchanges between Deerfoot Trail and Cranston, specifically headed westbound. Vehicles headed west on Stoney are not able to access Cranston and vehicles attempting to get to the South Health Campus by exiting onto Deerfoot Trail from Stoney Trail need to use a U-Turn Route at the Dunbow Road overpass that tacks on an extra 10.5 km to their trip. In an emergency situation, this could be the difference between life and death. Adding the 212th Avenue interchange would greatly improve access to these areas.
- Job creation. It is estimated that Alberta lost 19,600 jobs in 2015. The Provincial Government made it clear that they intended to move forward on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects to help stimulate the economy and get Albertans back to work. The construction of the “shovel-ready” 212th Avenue interchange and the subsequent development of south Seton could create as many as 28,800 jobs and lead to $465M in total economic impact.
- Cost Sharing. This project has an estimated price tag of $50M. The City of Calgary is willing to commit $10M in funds. A developer group led by Brookfield Residential is willing to contribute an additional $10M. Embracing this partnership would put the Province in a position where they only have to cover 60% of the project costs. It should be noted that the developer has no obligation whatsoever to contribute funding to this project.
Over the last number of months there have been a series of discussions between the developer, The City and the Province on this project. The City made it clear that we would front-end the funding for this project as long as the Province made a commitment to pay back their portion within a reasonable amount of time. This would allow this “shove-ready” project to be delivered without immediately impacting Provincial finances.
After numerous discussions, the City finally received a definitive answer from Alberta Transportation:
“Although the Province understands that this project is a high priority for Calgary, it is not a high priority for the Province at this time. Given the challenging economic environment, the Province is not in a position to provide any funding at this time or make a funding commitment into the future. Should the City wish to move ahead and fully fund the project (along with Brookfield), the Province will allow the project to proceed; further, the Province would be receptive to managing the project (tendering and delivery of the project) on behalf of the City.”
In short, Calgary can do the project if they want, but do not count on support from the Province.
I am very disappointed in this decision by Alberta Transportation. This is a project that connects Albertans to major pieces of public infrastructure and provides a more complete transportation network to the 100,000 residents that live in the area. By deferring on this partnership today, the Province has guaranteed that this project will cost taxpayers more in the future.
The Transportation Minister’s office stated, “the Province is not in a position to provide any funding at this time or make a funding commitment into the future”. This suggests to me that the Province feels that this project is not their responsibility. Deerfoot Trail will be handed back over to The City in the not so distant future. The transfer agreement will impact the area between the north Stoney Trail interchange and the south Stoney Trail interchange. The 212th Ave interchange would fall outside of this area. This interchange would connect major pieces of regional infrastructure to a provincial highway. From my perspective, this interchange is very clearly a provincial responsibility.
This decision really makes me wonder if Alberta Transportation has the best interests of southeast Calgary in mind. I strongly urge residents in Ward 12 to write into Transportation Minister Mason’s office and ask that he reconsider this decision. He can be reached here:
Honourable Brian Mason
and Transportation Minister
Room 320 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6