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Traffic circle first step to interchange

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After a summer veto by the Tsuu T'ina community of the long-awaited S.W. leg of the ring road, the city has moved to ease traffic woes.

Construction began this week on a $250,000 temporary traffic circle just south of Glenmore Trail and 37th Street S.W.

The traffic circle is a short-term solution for the larger interchange proposed for the busy junction that carries a $40-million price tag that could begin construction next year.

Ward 11 Alderman Brian Pincott called the interchange construction plans "long overdue."

"We have a decision, we're doing it, we're moving forward," he said.

Mayor Dave Bronconnier said last week the interchange has been "at failure for years," saying it is time to fix the issue.

The interim plan sees eastbound Glenmore Trail traffic turning north onto 37th Street, then heading south and entering a traffic circle which loops back to the northbound route.

Construction on the interchange may start as early as next year and will feature free flowing traffic from Deerfoot Trail to the Highway 8-Sarcee-Glenmore intersection S.W.

On the heels of this interchange idea come other ideas for the city's southwest, including widening Glenmore Trail between Crowchild and 37th Street to three lanes.

"It makes sense to increase the lanes on Glenmore so that it's six lanes all the way through," said Pincott, who also advocates for a proper interchange at Sarcee-Glenmore along with Highway 8 and 69th Street S.W.

However, not everyone is as optimistic and excited about the looming construction.

"It's already congested enough," said University of Calgary student Adam MacPherson.

The 25-year-old Communication and Culture student added he isn't sure how well the interim traffic circle will be received considering Calgary drivers are not familiar with the devices in busy areas.

Calgary realtor Jim Sparrow, who frequently works around the area, said the proposed interchange won't make one ounce of difference.

"You're simply moving the bottle-neck half a block, that's all you're doing."

With the Tsuu T'ina's June rejection of the ring road to flow through their land, the province has stated they will move ahead with alternate plans, ditching further negotiations with the reserve.

However, those plans ­-- as to the location, number of lanes and speed of the southwest portion of the ring road -- are up in the air with no clear answer on the horizon.

"The province has the desire to build a provincial road and that is great, and they need to look at that and they need to do that," said Pincott.

The alderman admits the southwest portion is unique, but for reasons that are upsetting to some. According to Pincott, speeds may be reduced to 80 kilometres per hour, a lane reduction and multiple jogs in the road may be needed to accommodate the reality that Tsuu T'ina land is currently not an option.

"How can you have a ring road unless you build it through the Tsuu T'ina nation?" said Sparrow. "I honestly can't see how it would work."

The ring road is set to be open by 2014. The $250,000 traffic roundabout is expected to take three to four weeks to complete.

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