City staff and consultants have arrived at what they say is the only viable option for an underpass connecting the city trail underneath Speedvale Avenue at Riverside Park.
But how much it will cost, and when it might get built, remains unknown.
An open house detailing the recommended option, which goes before city council on Dec. 17, was presented and discussed at an open house Thursday at city hall.
The plan involves re-jigging the trail slightly east on the south side of Speedvale, removing grades in the trail that create accessibility issues, and putting a concrete path below Speedvale Avenue on the west side of the river.
The tricky part, and the expensive part, is that retaining walls along the river are going to have to be rebuilt as part of this plan.
Consultants hired by the city studied 10 different options for the trail connection and came up with one that would work.
“We have one constructable option …. This is the only constructable option,” general manager of parks and recreation Heather Flaherty told roughly 60 people who gathered to hear details of the plan.
No one denies an underpass is needed for pedestrians and cyclists to keep using the trail without having to cross four lanes of traffic on Speedvale Avenue.
“We were directed to find a connection to make this work. We want this trail. We heard you. We got it,” Flaherty said.
“What we heard was that there was a gap in our trail network and this gap was a critical and important connection,” said Luke Jefferson, manager of open space planning.
The underpass will be done following the rebuilding of the Speedvale Avenue bridge which will accommodate the underpass. The bridge isn’t expected to be finished until 2022.
But until some further studies are finalized, a price tag on the underpass plan won’t be known. But the retaining wall work will increase the price significantly.
Then council will have to decide where the underpass, and that cost, fits into its 10-year capital forecast.
Concerned citizen Bill Mungall, who has followed this process closely, said that “you’ve got to get those costs down to a manageable level” in order to get the project to move ahead.
He suggested council look at changing its official plan to allow for the elimination of the retaining wall replacement, which he feels isn’t necessary.
“You’re going down the wrong road with tampering with the retaining wall when you don’t have to,” Mungall said.
Until the underpass is done, the city plans on extending the current crossing on Speedvale Avenue that cyclists and pedestrians currently use so that there is a crossing light closer to where the trail emerges on the north side of Speedvale.
Next steps in the process are to complete the study of the condition of the retaining walls, finish the detailed the design of the bridge then come to council in December with the report.