Connecting trails on either side of the Hanlon Expressway along the Speed River is a priority project for city council, which is looking for an interim solution for the long-term project to be found within the next six months.
That’s the direction council gave staff while approving a new city trails master plan which will see new trails created and existing ones expanded, along with the development of new design guidelines, updated wayfinding signs, formation of a trails committee and expanded winter maintenance on 38 kilometres of trail.
“I’m excited,” said Coun. Mike Salisbury, who represents Ward 4, where the Hanlon Expressway underpass connection is planned. “If I had one complaint about the last (trails master) plan it’s that it was not action.”
Council elevated that project, which dates back about 20 years, to the top level of priority. The staff recommendation set it at a lower level given the complexity of work required, particularly in light of the numerous property owners, including the operating Dolime Quarry, and government agencies involved.
The city’s 10-year capital forecast calls for $28.2 million to be spent on new trails, with another $3.05 million for improvements to existing trails and $927,000 to “improve operational efficiency through new policies, procedures and studies,” as outlined in a staff report.
In addition to elevating the Hanlon connection, council directed staff to investigate the feasibility of a northern street-level 2 underpass trail connection at the Speedvale Avenue bridge – possibly a loop to take people down under the bridge and bring them back up on the other side of the road. Those potential connections are to be evaluated and considered in future city budgets.
“As it stands, if we do nothing, we may have to wait 20 years until the retaining wall along the river is replaced for the trail connection to happen,” said Coun. Rodrigo Goller, who introduced the motion on behalf of Mayor Cam Guthrie.
That retaining wall would need to be reconstructed to align with a relocated trail route.
“We do have an interim solution, but that interim solution still puts people on the road, crossing, stopping traffic,” added Goller.
Approved in 2018, the interim solution involves moving the crosswalk on the east side of the bridge a little closer to the riverbank to better align with the trail connection there, but still requires people to cross the bridge using an expanded sidewalk and transverse the road at the crosswalk.
In the meantime, a walkway “shelf” under the bridge is planned as part of an upcoming bridge reconstruction project, however that shelf will not connect to existing trails until the retaining wall issue is dealt with and the trail realigned.
Council’s direction to staff will have them review options for using that underpass shelf sooner rather than later.
This is something several delegates called on council to do.
“We need it now more than eve, with the increased usage of the Trans Canada Trail and the future usage with a (Guelph to Goderich trail) connection from Downtown to the Kissing Bridge Trailhead (on Silvercreek Road, north of the city),” commented Mike Darmon, president of Guelph Coalition for Active Transportation (GCAT).
“I constantly see red light runners,” he said of the crosswalk east of the Speedvale Avenue bridge. “GCAT is perplexed that finding a solution to the Speedvale underpass problem has been so elusive for so many years. It is our hope that it will be this council, not the next one or the one after that, that finally gets this important trail connection made.”
Council heard from several delegates representing trails-related groups, each of whom called for the master plan to be approved.