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Plan for new pedestrian bridge over Speed River heads to public meeting

Official plan amendment, agency approvals needed before work can begin

A new pedestrian bridge over the Speed River, connecting downtown with the northeast area of the city, needs one more approval from council before detailed work can begin – an official plan amendment allowing it to be built in the natural heritage system.

That amendment is the subject of a public meeting set for Feb. 8, beginning at 6:30 p.m. and livestreamed at guelph.ca/live.

Council will not be making a decision that night. The public meeting is intended to gather input on the proposal to allow for “essential transportation infrastructure” in areas with significant wetlands, woodlands and wildlife habitat for the $1.68 million bridge.

Alignment of the 90-metre long structure, to be situated about 200-metres downstream of Speedvale Avenue, runs through a hydro corridor which currently has power lines strung over the river. Those lines are to be incorporated into the bridge’s design.

A support pier is to be built where there is an existing utility pole and footing in the river.

In addition to the official plan amendment, the project requires permits and approvals from other agencies such as the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, explained Terry Gayman, the city’s general manager of engineering and transportation services.

If those approvals are granted, detailed design work is expected to get underway this year. Construction is set to begin in 2022 or 2023, depending on the final design and permitting requirements, Gayman said.

City council first approved the Emma Street to Earl Street bridge in 2015, endorsed the completion of environmental studies last year and included $130,000 in the 2021 municipal budget for design work. 

An additional $1.7 million is expected to be budgeted in 2022, for a total of $1.838 million.

“This budget includes the estimated cost to design and construct the bridge as well as costs for permitting, communications and internal charges,” explained Gayman.

During public information centres held for the project in 2016 and 2017, about half of attendees indicated they’re not supportive of a pedestrian bridge connecting Emma and Earl streets. They raised concerns regarding the cost, a potential for increased crime, environmental impact and more.

Many of those concerns were renewed in September, when completion of an environmental assessment was presented to city council.

Some of concerns will be addressed during the design process, Ken Vanderwal, the city’s manager of technical services, explained at the time. In addition, Leah Lefler, city environmental planner, noted no long-term impacts to wildlife are anticipated because the bridge follows the hydro corridor, and in fact the project provides an opportunity to remediate some historical fill in the river.

Plans for the pedestrian bridge came into being after council-of-the-day opted not to include cycling lanes as part road improvements along Speedvale Avenue between Manhattan Court and Woolwich Street, including bridge replacement over the Speed River. That would have required “significant property” to be expropriated from private landowners, said Vanderwal.

Need for the Emma Street to Earl Street pedestrian bridge was first identified in the 2005 Guelph Trail Master Plan.

The deadline to register as a delegate or make a written submission for the Feb. 8 public meeting is Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. though anyone wishing to address council about the official plan amendment will be allowed to speak during the meeting. 

To register,  519-837-5603 or email clerks@guelph.ca.

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Richard Vivian

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