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Calgary councillor expresses doubts about change in financing approach to Deerfoot upgrades

One hundred and eighty thousand Calgarians commute up and down Deerfoot Trail daily. For many it's their only way to work and back, but for others it's a white-knuckle drive they’d rather not take.

“It's an intense piece of road and myself I avoid it all costs,” said Calgary driver Darvin Knorr.

In a 2020 safety audit of the road, the province identified several priority areas to be upgraded to increase both the safety and usability of Deerfoot Trail.

  • Twinning Ivor Strong Bridge;
  • Improving Anderson Road/Bow Bottom Trail Interchange;
  • Twinning the bridge over Glenmore Trail;
  • Reconfiguring the 17 Avenue S.E. and Memorial Drive Interchanges and eliminating weaving traffic; and
  • Widening between 17 Avenue S.E. and Airport Trail to four lanes in each direction.

The province planned to complete that work using a public-private partnership (P3) funding model, but Tuesday announced it was scrapping that plan because it would cost taxpayers too much money.

"Current economic conditions have resulted in pricing volatility and historically high inflation in the construction industry, which means a P3 approach to Deerfoot Trail improvements is not economically viable," said transportation minister Prasad Panda, who added changing the funding process will also change the manner, and likely the timeline in which work is completed.

“So instead of doing one P3, from south to north, including the road expansion and the bridges, we're going to split it into smaller packages.”


The opposition NDP is pleased the P3 process has been scrapped, but Calgary-Mountainview MLA Kathleen Ganley said the province should have started work on Deerfoot years ago instead of waiting to discover the P3 was uneconomical.

“The government should be moving more quickly if they'd moved back when they were first elected when prices were so low because we were still in a recession I think they could already sort of be underway at this point.”

Ward 10 councillor Andre Chabot has been lobbying for Deerfoot upgrades for over a decade. He does not believe the province’s claim it will save money by scrapping the P3 process. He also believes it will delay the needed upgrades to the road.

“I think you should be pushing forward sooner rather than later for a number of reasons, primarily for the safety and an enjoyment of Calgarian," Chabot said.

Chabot also pointed out the province has hinted it wants to return control of Deerfoot Trail to the city. He worries that if the upgrades are not complete before that happens the city will be stuck with a huge repair bill it cannot afford.

“I don't see this as a positive outcome” said Chabot.

“We don't have the financial capacity to make those improvements on that roadway.”

Constituents in Chabot’s ward which is adjacent to Deerfoot expressed disappointment the proposed upgrades may be delayed.

”I think that's sad because they really do think that it needs to be fixed up and if there's an accident on Deerfoot sometimes you can be stuck there for hours,” said Debra Lingard. “There's just there aren't enough exits available for emergencies.”

Panda said the province is committed to completing the work on Deerfoot Trail but says now that there will not be a private partner in the funding his department will have to return to the provincial treasury and ask for more taxpayers money to complete the work on Calgary’s busiest freeway. Top Stories

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