The construction of the Green Line under 11 Avenue in the Beltline offers the opportunity to pilot a return to two-way streets on 11th and 12th Avenues through the Beltline and Sunalta.
The 1960’s and 70’s was an era of paving expressways through neighbourhoods
The 1960’s plans for Calgary’s cringeworthy "Downtown Penetrator” that thankfully was ultimately stopped by the community.
You may have heard the story of how the neighbourhoods of Eau Claire, Chinatown and East Village were once on the chopping block to make way for a massive riverfront six-to-ten lane freeway, “the Downtown Penetrator”, through Downtown Calgary. Thankfully, in 1964 plans for the freeway fell through and the Local Council of Women along with the local Councillor saved the riverfront and started Calgary’s beloved pathway system.
But not all neighbourhoods were as lucky. Nearly 50 years ago in the Beltline and Sunalta, 11th and 12th Avenues were converted to one-way commuter roads that prioritized moving motor vehicles as fast as possible in and out of Downtown, at the expense of local businesses and residents. For decades, local businesses have struggled along these corridors while residents have been forced to suffer with excess noise, pollution, speeding and safety issues.
Robson Street in Vancouver is a two-way street that is one of the most exciting and vibrant urban streets in the city.
Why it’s finally time to take another look at two-way traffic on 11th and 12th Avenues
It’s not the first time this idea has been seriously considered. Back in 2005, The City studied the idea but ultimately decided to postpone it until a whole wishlist of now-implemented improvements to the transportation network had been made. A freshly elected Councillor Woolley attempted to bring the issue to Council in 2013, but was met with little interest from City Administration. Today, much has changed in the Beltline, Sunalta and Downtown— and it’s ripe for a fresh look at improving and revitalizing these streets.
Here’s what’s changed since two-way streets were last considered (it’s a long list):
10 Avenue connection across 14 Street SW - Connecting Sunalta and Beltline on 10th Avenue across 14 Street SW was completed over a decade ago.
West LRT (Blue Line) - Opened in 2012 connecting neighbourhoods as far west as 69 Street to 7th Avenue Downtown.
4 Street SE CPR Underpass - opened in 2011 connecting the East Village to East Victoria Park and Stampede.
Bow Trail and Crowchild Trail improvements - numerous connectivity and widening improvements completed as recently as 2020.
East Victoria Park redevelopment - The new Beltline Area Redevelopment Plan in the Rivers District calls for vibrant two-way streets on 11th and 12th Avenues east of Macleod Trail SE.
Downtown Cycle Track Network - Opened in 2014 the network of protected lanes continues to expand providing safe, efficient mobility for people moving by bike, scooter, or wheels. E-scooters have exploded on the streets of Calgary with two private operators now offering 1,500 devices across the Greater Downtown and Ward 8 communities.
17 Avenue South Extension into Stampede - Expected completion in 2024, 17 Avenue will connect across the LRT tracks into Stampede and onto 4 Street SE.
Beltline’s population has increased over 50% since 2006 - Now the highest density and population community in Calgary, Beltline’s population has exploded from 16,290 in 2006 to over 25,000 in 2020. The east and west ends of 11 and 12 Avenues are hardly recognizable from 15 years ago. Today they are lined with new residential condos, apartments and commercial retail.
Rampant speeding and safety issues -The 1100 block of 12th Avenue SW just outside Connaught Elementary School in Beltline ranked the second highest location in the entire city for speeding tickets in 2019.
Greater Downtown Plan - Launched in 2020, Calgary’s strategy to address the high vacancy and declining tax revenues Downtown calls for an ambitious reinvention of the Greater Downtown with lively, people-focused streets that contribute to creating vibrancy and activity to better support residents, visitors and local businesses.
Green Line LRT - The largest infrastructure project in Calgary’s history will run underground on 11th Avenue in the Beltline providing rapid transit North to Downtown across the Bow River up Centre Street to the Airport as well as across the Elbow River to Inglewood/Ramsay and Southeast Calgary. The construction of this project over the next several years will provide Calgary the opportunity to pilot returning 11th and 12 Avenues to two-way traffic.
104 Street in Edmonton is another vibrant two-way street that could serve as a great model for rethinking 11th and 12th Avenues in Calgary.
The success of local businesses is key to Calgary’s success
Local businesses have been among the greatest proponents of returning to two-way streets on 11th and 12th Avenues. It’s time we seriously consider how such a move could help our local economy, improve the vibrancy of our Downtown and make Calgary a magnet city for people around the world.
If elected, I will work with The City of Calgary, local businesses, and residents to pilot two-way streets on 11th and 12th Avenues as part of the Green Line construction detours. We will evaluate the success of these streets as two-ways with Calgarians— and decide what changes, if any, to make for the long term success of these streets.