Is a 16-18 lane highway required in Calgary,
now or in the future?  Most of Stoney Trail is
6-lanes wide with plans for a maximum of 10.


Is a 16-18 lane highway required in Calgary, now or in the future?  Most of Stoney Trail is 6-lanes wide with plans for a maximum of 10.

Jan 31, 2018 – Alberta’s Transportation Minister says the southwest portion of Calgary’s ring road has an overly lavish design his Government would not have approved. 

He said its considerably overbuilt, with the potential to contain 16 traffic lanes due to the inclusion of a 100-metre-wide median. 

“My preference would be not to build it the way it is, and it’s correct to say it’s added to the cost,” Mason told Postmedia. 

“Is it overbuilt? There’s no question, no question.”

Mason said he doubts those additional lanes will be needed due to evolving transportation technology.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said the project’s “over-design” unnecessarily threatens water features.

Jan 29, 2018 – Minister of Environment & Parks Ministerial Order 06/2018

I strongly agree with Minister Mason’s direction that the Province should not be developing an outer ring road for Calgary. An outer ring road would only lead to more urban sprawl and additional pressures on the environment, including on our wetlands. I agree with the Appellants that requiring KGL and Alberta Transportation to go back to the “drawing board,” to redesign the roadway to 8 lanes and restore the.wetlands that may have been unnecessarily disturbed, would send a strong message about the importance of protecting our wetlands.

YYC Cares comment

So now that this Government has finally admitted that this road is being overbuilt, why not redesign the SWCRR and save Albertans $450 million.  Its never too late.  Do the right thing.  This is $450 million that could go towards schools and healthcare! Plus the environment, the wetlands and the biodiveristy that are all supposed to be protected could all have been saved.  This is 2018 not 1918.  Roads have to detour around sensitive environmental areas.

The following letter is part of a submission given to the Environmental Appeals Board hearing, October 23 – 25, 2017:

Did you ever stop to wonder why the soon-to-be-constructed SouthWest Ring Road is the most expensive segment of ring road yet to be be built anywhere in Alberta?

Did you ever stop to wonder why Alberta Transportation initially published a multi-billion estimate for the road, then quickly deleted any reference to the budget from their website?

If your answer is the land costs to be paid to the Tsuu Tina Nation then you would be wrong.

The answer is that Alberta Transportation has designed this segment of the ring road to accommodate sixteen lanes; eight in each direction. The largest number of lanes, and the widest road, anywhere in Alberta; and equal in size to the largest road in Canada, which is also the busiest road in North America, Highway 401 in southern Ontario.

But wait, you say. Alberta Transportation communications regarding the road indicate only four lanes in each direction; not eight. Not only that, their application for approval to Alberta Environment states that the road is a “six to eight lane divided freeway” not the sixteen to eighteen lane freeway that they are actually building. So Transportation is not only lying to the public; they are lying to the Environment department as well.

Very simply they aren’t coming clean on their future plans. They are avoiding telling the full story to the public, while they go ahead and create the first stage of this massive project without releasing their ultimate plans.


The current SouthWest Ring Road project will have only four paved lanes in each direction, it is true. But these four lanes are separated by a median wide enough to accommodate the future eight lanes, and those lanes are being graded as part of the phase 1 project.

That is why the roadway includes a landscaped grassy median all the way from Highway 22 to Highway 8 wide enough to accommodate a football field; approximately 300 football fields in fact, laid side by side.

And if the cost of all of that grass wasn’t enough, they are building all of the overpass structures long enough to span the current lanes and the future lanes. The cost of these longer structures? Roughly $450 million according to department estimates.

Add in the cost of the 300 football fields and other associated overbuilding and the excess cost of Alberta Transportation’s design creeps upward towards one billion dollars (that’s spelled with a capital B).

Why are they doing this?

Because their traffic projections indicate that in fifty or more years time, the present eight lanes will be insufficient to handle the traffic needs of the city of Calgary, if and when the population reaches four million people. At that time a second ring road will be required around the city. And because Alberta Transportation is reluctant to consider any other solutions for this future road, they intend to shoehorn it into the present ring road corridor known as the TUC.

This regardless of the fact that no-one in the adjacent communities have been honestly apprised that their homes might be adjacent to a sixteen lane highway.


Now a compelling argument for not disseminating this information at the present time might be that the future eight lanes will never be built. And that is highly probable.

Given the changes in transportation technology, rapid transit, driverless cars, drones, and what have you, driving patterns are changing very rapidly. In fact, even the basic assumption that Calgary will reach a population of four million, given changes in the underlying economy of Alberta , is suspect.

But if we aren’t going to need the road in another fifty, or seventy-five, or one hundred years, then why are we spending one billion dollars of scarce capital today to make provision for this highway planners dream?

What does it say about our capital planning when we are going ahead and spending one billion dollars simply to create a future, possibly unnecessary, roadway, when we are struggling to assure the funding for a cancer hospital which is badly needed immediately?

And can we really hold our heads up as a province and say that we are committed to environmental sustainability and  to reducing our carbon footprint if we are proceeding with the construction of a sixteen lane freeway?

Efforts to make the case to Alberta Transportation for a more cost effective and more environmentally responsible solution have so far failed. The department continues to move full speed with their very expensive, and very large, roadway without any heed to advice to the contrary, nor to the concerns of adjacent communities, such as Discovery Ridge, which are becoming more and more concerned as they become fully aware of the true impact on their community.

This is a matter which should concern all members of the community and all Alberta taxpayers. It is not too late to act. The Premier and her Transportation Minister need to have a good look at what is going on behind the scenes at Alberta Transportation before we have 300 football fields on which to cut the grass for the next fifty years.

Respectfully submitted,

Barry Lester

Past-president, Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta

Past-president, Consulting Engineers of Alberta

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