It’s a Go: Emma to Earl Pedestrian Bridge
The city of Guelph has been given the provincial green light to progress with the construction of a new pedestrian bridge in the downtown area, overcoming objections from a local residents group, Residents for a Safe Speedvale Avenue (RSSA). RSSA had raised issues over public consultation and environmental impact, preferring instead the improvement of the existing Speedvale Avenue bridge over the Speed River.
“Having considered the issues and concerns, I am satisfied that they have been addressed by the work already done or will be in the ongoing efforts,” writes David Piccini, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, in a letter to RSSA. He also informs the city, “With this decision, the project can now proceed, subject to any other necessary permits or approvals.”
Last summer, RSSA filed a ‘bump-up’ request, asking the ministry for more public and Indigenous consultations, as well as an enhanced environmental review. The ministry’s response letters were dated June 30, but were only made public by city officials last Thursday.
The proposed pedestrian bridge will link Emma and Earl streets over the Speed River, approximately 200 meters downstream of Speedvale Avenue. Although the project was budgeted at $2.53 million in the city’s 2022 and 2023 plans, only $500,000 was allocated due to the provincial appeal.
Active transportation groups have voiced their support for the project, which is a part of the city’s trails master plan. Reg Russwurm, the city’s manager of design and construction, emphasized the bridge’s importance, particularly during the upcoming 2026 Speedvale Bridge upgrade. He pointed out the value of the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, who would otherwise have to detour by at least two kilometers to cross the Speed River.
With Guelph’s current population standing at about 150,000, it is required to accommodate 208,000 residents by 2051 according to provincial mandates. With the provincial obstacle now cleared, the final design process for the bridge can commence, with its construction expected in 2025.
This ‘bump-up’ request was RSSA’s second regarding the bridge. Previously, in October 2020, the group raised similar concerns regarding the project’s adherence to the Endangered Species Act and sought further public consultation. That request resulted in the city having to conduct additional Indigenous community consultations and provide details about the public consultation process, species at risk assessments, and potential habitat impacts.
Initially approved by the council in 2015, the bridge was first projected to cost $1.8 million. The plan was developed following the decision not to include cycling lanes in the road improvements along Speedvale Avenue, including the bridge replacement over the Speed River.