Call to action: Support the Emma Earl Pedestrian/Cycling Bridge!

The proposed Emma Earl bridge is back for discussion at council on Sept. 8, and we need your support  to ensure the bridge is built. If we lose this bridge due to budget pressures, then there will be no east west bike lane connections built near Speedvale Avenue for decades to come.

At this juncture, GCAT’s “ask” is that staff complete the EA that will allow the building of the Emma Earl Bridge, and that the Official Plan be amended to allow the preferred bridge structure to be built. We also ask that the bridge be built in 2021, as the current date of 2025 is too far into the future.

Let council know that we need this bridge for people who walk and cycle in the absence of bike lanes on Speedvale Ave. The Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss this issue takes place on Sept 8, so please add comments or submit delegations to clerks@guelph.ca  before Friday Sept. 4 at 10 AM. Contacting your local councillors is also a good idea!

Background

With the Speedvale Ave. bridge needing replacement, the project expanded to widening Speedvale Avenue, and adding on road, unbuffered bike lanes (per 2009 bylaw.) from Woolwich  to Stevenson. The original option considered  in 2015 was to add bike lanes to the widened street, as well as left turn lanes. The cost of this endeavour was excessive, as it required additional  expropriation of  extra land from 24 properties, as well as the requirement to put hydro underground. The added cost, for the bike lanes and underground hydro, would have been over $5 million.  In comparison, the proposed bridge is a bargain at $1.7 million

Emma Earl Bridge- a better alternative!

A better idea was then presented; to build a bridge at Emma and Earl Streets. (see map). This potential connection was first identified in the Guelph Trail Master Plan (2005) and is further identified as a connection in the Official Plan under Schedule 6: Open Space System Trail Network.  The bridge will serve as an important junction for people across the City of all ages who walk, cycle, and scooter.

This bridge proposal also represents an enormous capital cost avoidance for the city compared with bicycle infrastructure on Speedvale, while being more pleasant and safer for people of all ages.

The proposed bridge will connect  protected, mostly off road north-south infrastructure from the Waverley-Riverside Park neighbourhood and beyond, to the heart of the city. It provides a safe connection to downtown, which is a major cycling destination according to Guelph’s Cycling Master Plan.

East-west, this bridge provides an alternative – via Emma St. – to travelling on Speedvale Ave.   It will connect users from the east end to the Trans Canada Trail and eventually to the Woodlawn multi-use path or the spur line trail, which accesses services and jobs in the west end. It also provides those living west of the Speed River access to grocery stores and other services on Speedvale Ave. E.

An additional benefit is that with the connection to Emma St., the proposed bridge will allow people to avoid the steep Eramosa hill, which is an identified significant barrier for many people who want to cycle.

Best option for Bridge-Alternative 2b – Double Span Bridge (Hydro within Structure)

The bridge option  presented under 2b is excellent from a cost and environmental perspective, as tree removals would be minimized by making use of the existing cleared hydro corridor. Incorporating hydro lines within the bridge structure would further minimize the impact. Construction of the pier within the valley would provide opportunity for removal of historic fill, and  nonindigenous and invasive species would be replaced  with locally-appropriate species to improve ecological functions, including water filtration and wildlife habitat. Alternative 2b would result in a positive impact to the Natural Heritage System.(Schedule B Class Environmental Assessment – Project File Emma Street to Earl Street Pedestrian Bridge Submitted by: Aquafor Beech Ltd.)

Wide Public Support for the Emma Earl Bridge

According to the report,  there is only 50% support for this project from the public. This is misleading. The 50% support of this project includes major community groups, such as GCAT, the Guelph Hiking Club, GORBA, the Speed River Cycling Club, and other groups, which each represent 150 or more members and  many supporters.

No bridge = no east west connection near Speedvale Ave: a broken promise

A tremendous amount of money has already been put into the project thus far, and  there are no bike lanes planned for the  reconstructed Speedvale Avenue. If council says no to this proposal, they will be saying no  to one of the very few east-west cycling corridors that we have in the city, which is a major active transportation corridor. Furthermore, Council passed a resolution to allow an exemption to the 2009 Bike policy of bike lanes on Speedvale Ave in order to build this bridge as a car free route for cyclists and pedestrians. Taking away this long awaited connection would mean a broken promise, especially since the alternative on Speedvale Avenue no longer exists.

Take action! Contact your councillors and tell them you want them to build the Emma Earl Bridge!

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