‘Nice future connection’: Guelph council approves modification permitting Emma-Earl pedestrian bridge

A new pedestrian bridge has been given the go ahead by council, but its fate may be headed to a provincial tribunal.

At its June 27 meeting, the council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s official plan, permitting the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Speed ​​River, from the west end of Emma Street to the east end of Earl Street.

“This is a great future connection,” Coun. June Hofland said during the meeting.

The amendment was needed, city staff have previously said, in order to permit essential transportation infrastructure within areas already established as significant wetlands, woodlands and a wildlife habitat.

From here, the city will complete final updates to the project’s environmental assessment, which will be resubmitted to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. Once those are given the thumbs up, work can begin on the bridge’s detailed design and construction.

While city staff had previously said the bridge could be designed and built by 2025 at the latest, transportation planner and nearby resident Martin Collier said his group, Residents for a Safe Speedvale Avenue, would file an objection to the amendment with the Ontario Land Tribunal.

In response to a question from Hofland, Collier said the bridge could lead to increased crime in the neighborhood.

“We’ve had a neighbor who moved out of this area because he was assaulted at 9:30 at night while he was walking the dog on the trail. That bridge gives people a third option to get away from police,” he said.

count Phil Allt later said the idea the pedestrian bridge could lead to more crime was “really problematic.”

“I completely reject that because if in fact that’s the case, the Norwich Street Bridge makes everybody in the Wolfond Park area susceptible and vulnerable to everyone that lives on the other side of the river and vice versa,” the Ward 3 councilor said.

“I do believe our staff are quite capable of creating safety mechanisms that can provide for safety and alleviate any concerns.”

While the bridge had originally been budgeted at $1.68 million in 2020, those costs could be higher due to increased material costs, along with inflationary pressures.

“In a traditional year, I would have said somewhere in the zero-to-five per cent range, but now we’re seeing slightly higher,” Terry Gayman, city engineer, said in response to Coun. Dominique O’Rourke’s question regarding the amount of construction costs could increase for each year of delay.

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