Environment Ministry Gives Thumbs Up to Niska Development

After nearly a month of being closed to traffic for safety, the Niska Rd bridge is now one step closer to its much needed renovation. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change today has decided that further environmental assessments are unnecessary, and that the process for reconstruction of Niska Rd. and the replacement of old Bailey Bridge can now proceed.

The letter from Minister Glenn Murray was stamped March 20, and it says that despite having received four Part II requests, the ministry has decided that an individual Environmental Assessment isn’t required after careful consideration of concerns made in the request, and the documentation presented to the ministry by the City of Guelph staff. The ministry is imposing conditions though, a Heritage Impact Assessment will have to be completed, that assessment will have to be made available during the public consultation process, and cycling lanes will have to be included in the final design.

“We’re very pleased Minister Murray is satisfied with the level of environmental assessment we’ve undertaken to thoroughly study the Niska Road area and fully understand our community’s concerns,” said Kealy Dedman, the City’s General Manager and City Engineer, in a press release. “We’re now ready to proceed with the much needed improvements to Niska Road that support Guelph’s safe and efficient transportation system.”

“This project was originally approved by Council in December 2015. We were then, and still are now, confident in the City’s processes and plans. Council thanks staff for their tireless work along with the engagement from the community. I am extremely pleased that the Minister’s decision has reaffirmed that confidence,” added Mayor Cam Guthrie. “It is unfortunate that we’ve lost two construction seasons while awaiting this decision initiated by the Part II Order requests. I believe I speak for many within the community, especially now that the bridge has been closed due to safety concerns, that I’m glad that we can finally move forward.”

The City’s approved plan will see $2.1 million spent on road improvements, and $2.4 million on the bridge. In the 2017 Capital Budget, $450,000 was approved for the project; the HIA and natural heritage studies were both already budgeted for. According to Dedmam, all the necessary studies will be completed through the summer, with design proposals ready for the fall.

Updates on the project, including consultation requests, will also be available at guelph.ca/niskaroad before construction starts.

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