City Council Preview – What’s on the Agenda for the May 30 Meeting?

In another special meeting of council this month (and the last), the mayor and councillors will hear back on pending infrastructure projects: Guelph’s share of all that investment money that the Federal government announced earlier this year, and creating a stop in the Royal City for the high speed rail line coming sometime in the next 20 years.

Proposed Project List for Infrastructure Funding – As I’m sure you’ll recall, in their budget back in March, the Federal Liberals announced $60 billion in new infrastructure spending over 10 years, with $11.9 billion coming up front for the first two years. That money is primarily broken down into three categories: green infrastructure, social infrastructure and public transit, with $8.7 billion being handed out through the New Building Canada Fund (NBCF), just over $600 million for Investment in Affordable Housing (IAH) and Homeless Partnering Strategy (HPS), $168 million for the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund (CCSF), and $150 million for Regional Development Agencies (RDA).

Once we knew what money would come and under what categories, the City began looking at several projects based a set criteria. Any project looking for federal money will have to be “shovel ready”, have an approved budget amount, must have compounded community benefits, and must have generation of revenue and/or operational cost savings paid back over time.

So what are we looking at? Under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF), Guelph is wanting to buy some new buses, buy some new fair boxes, complete the Transit Master Plan, and upgrade bus stop shelters. The Clean Water and Wastewater Fund will look at a new snow disposal facility and storm water pond rehabilitation. Under the NBCF, Guelph is looking for money for the Silvercreek grade separation, Metcalfe St. reconstruction, and remediation of the IMACo brownfield. A main library upgrade and improvements to the coach house on the McCrae House museum property are filed under the RDA and the CCSF respectively, and are also part of the wish list.

As for the price tag, if the City goes through with all these projects it will cost just shy of $61 million. The federal share will be just over $25 million though, which along with $20 million from the province and the nearly $5.5 million approved by in the 2016 budget, it means we’re about $10 million shy of making it work. The next steps will be applying for program funding and making sure the City has all its ducks in a row if new funding opportunities become available. A south end rec centre, downtown redevelopment, transit expansion, affordable housing development, and the Guelph Innovation District would make up that “Phase 2” slate.

High-Speed Rail Access in Guelph – Once it looked like a proposed high-speed rail line between Windsor and Toronto to be built by 2030 (aren’t we ambitious?) would bypass Guelph, but that seems to no longer be the case. A report being presented to council though will show that after consultations with David Collenette, Special Advisor for High Speed Rail, it seems there may be an “alternative alignment” that will allow Guelph to be part of the line, pending City approval of course. That’s interesting, because as recently as February it seemed likely that HSR would skip Guelph, but where there’s a will there’s a way apparently.

So what’s changed? Well, the initial problem was that it looked like a lot of work would have to be done on Guelph’s rail lines to make it happen; upgrades to all the lines and the fact that there are several “at-grade” crossings (Definition: an intersection where a railway line crosses a road or path at the same level, as opposed to the railway line crossing over or under using a bridge or tunnel). All the rail lines though will have to be updated sometime before 2030 with new safety issues and compliance guidelines coming down the pipe from Transport Canada.

For the report to proceed to the next level it will have to be approved by council, and the mayor will have to submit a letter to Collenette supporting in principle Guelph being included in, and having a stop on, the proposed HSR line.

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