Alberta Transportation spokesman Parker Hogan confirmed an official opening would take place at 10:15 a.m.
The road should be open to the public by the afternoon, he said, and motorists would definitely have access by the evening rush hour.
The southeast portion consists of 25 kilometres of six-lane roadway, nine interchanges, 27 bridge structures and three flyovers, in addition to a 12 kilometre stretch of Deerfoot Trail between Stoney Trail SE and the Highway 2A junction.
The third stage of the loop was expected to be open by Oct. 1 but the $769 million project has been plagued by delays that left its opening date uncertain until Thursday. Several times optimistic talk and new deadlines left frustrated southeast Calgary commuters without their thoroughfare.
Chinook Roads Partnership faced a $70,000 fine for every day past that deadline the project was delayed. The late November opening was set to cost the company more than $3.5 million.
“We have not had typical Calgary weather. Long winters (and) very long springs with lots of moisture. Two years ago it rained every second day until the end of July. That’s really the worst thing you could have. It just slowed earthmoving and everything else.”
Paperwork proved to be the final hurdle as the original agreement was amended to allow Chinook to finish some of the paving work next spring.
“There’s no point putting some of it down now and then having it deteriorate in the winter and then redoing it in the spring,” Woodroffe said.
“We had to go through that procedure of getting signatures from Alberta Transportation, Chinook and the lenders and that has taken time.”
Chinook had another year to complete non-essential work such as water drainage and landscaping, he said.
Calgary’s Ward 12 councillor Shane Keating said the long-awaited confirmed opening was “fabulous news” after watching progress on the project stall.
“I did see many days in the summer when there were no workers and very little going on. I don’t know what the complete scenario is. You kind of wonder when, if you’re getting close after three years, and a long weekend goes by and there’s very little work being done.”
Chinook will conduct an investigation into the delays when the project is finished.
“In every construction program you underestimate and overestimate in different areas,” Woodroffe said.
“It has cost us in this one. It has been very, very difficult. We anticipated it to be complex but not as complex as this.”
Attention now turns to the city’s southwest where construction of the final leg of the ring road would complete the long-awaited loop around the city.
In late October Tsuu T’ina members, whose lands would be needed to construct the road, backed a deal that includes $340 million in cash and a land swap. Transportation Minister Ric McIver has pledged that traffic will be flowing on the southwest ring road within seven years of the land transfer being completed.