City of Guelph endorses two-lane Niska Road bridge

It looks like the city is moving ahead with staff recommendations to replace the one-lane Niska Road bridge with a two-lane structure.

The Dec. 3 decision of council followed discussions and debate that dragged out until well after midnight.

Residents from the area and from across the city came out to discuss the impact to the environment and heritage of the rural road area, many stating they simply did not want the bridge widened.

An environmental assessment of the site shows the existing bridge to be in poor shape and the Guelph portion of the road to have deep cracks. There are no sidewalks and very little parking on the side of the road.

Estimates presented at the meeting suggest over 4,500 cars travel the road daily, while over 100 cyclists take that route each week. In addition, it is believed that about 20 heavy trucks cross the bridge each week, despite it not being designated as a truck route.

While there is an acknowledgement of the cultural heritage value, the bridge is not designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The report to council recommended relocating the current bridge to another location to be used as pedestrian bridge.

The cost of the project is estimated at $5.3 million with 70 per cent of the funding likely to come from development charges.

Questions continued to be raised how this change will affect the Hanlon Creek Conservation area.

Of all 22 delegations, only one spoke in favour of widening the road and the bridge. The others spoke to the need to protect the cultural landscape, conservation lands and concerns about what will happen next if the two-lane bridge was allowed. Attempts to defer a decision until more information was available from Heritage Guelph failed.

As such, after a long night of presentations, delegations and debate, council voted 9-4 in favour of the staff recommendation – that the bridge be replaced with a two-lane structure, and that the street be widened with sidewalks and bike lanes.