Where once there was one, now there’s two. The new two-lane Niska Road Bridge is almost ready to receive cars, cyclists and pedestrians, and the City of Guelph marked the occasion with a special ribbon cutting and the announcement that traffic will start rolling over the bridge again soon.
The new Niska Road Bridge will be open for public use in a matter of days, according to Chief Administrative Officer Scott Stewart and Mayor Cam Guthrie, who were both on hand for the ribbon cutting. It’s been about six years since the first environmental assessment, almost four years since the bridge was approved at council, and about 19 months since access to the old Bailey Bridge was shut down due to dangers of collapse.
“It took a little longer than we hoped to get to the physical work, however we worked together to get it done, and we got it done on time, and on budget, and the improvements we’ve made to the Niska Road Bridge will foster easy, safe, and accessible movement into Guelph, out of Guelph and throughout Guelph,” said Stewart.
Guthrie brought a prop to the ribbon cutting, a rusted and bend bolt from the old Bailey Bridge. “I’ve had this in my desk for the last few years,” Guthrie explained. “At the time people were wondering if we could fix [the bridge], and this is an example that it was way past its prime as a safe, reliable bridge for our community.”
Replacing the Niska Road Bridge has been a source of much controversy for much of the last decade. Concerns about the project ranged from increased traffic in the area, to compromising the sensitive environment in the this section of the Speed River, to losing a valuable heritage object in the old Bailey Bridge, which was installed during World War II.
The new bridge, along with accompanying two lanes of traffic, also has a two-way multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians and has features that allows for the safe crossing of local wildlife under the road. The improved road design of Niska also allows for new parking spots off to the side to allow people to stop and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
“I think it’s really an acknowledgement to heritage, it’s an acknowledgement to the environment that this bridge is surrounded by, and it makes sure that we’re obviously keeping people safe,” Guthrie said after the official ceremony. “We’ve really taken all the steps that we normally would do here in Guelph to make sure that those things are a priority in the projects that we do.”
Guthrie added that the project has met the expectations of the City, and that it should meet the expectations of the community. The mayor said that there’s been “ongoing opposition from a small amount of people,” but they should also be pleased with the project as it’s reaching its completion.
Still, the concerns remain, and they remain for City staff too, especially the possibility of increased traffic along Niska.
“We have a number of tactics planned. One of those, because trucks are a concern, it that there’s now a truck exclusion zone that can be enforced through the police,” Deputy CAO Kealy Dedman explained. “There’s the narrowing of the street, which tends to slow traffic, and we think that the addition of the multi-use path for bikes will sometimes slow down traffic, and we’re going to continue to monitor it.”
Dedman added that Guelph Police will not be monitoring the area all day and night for truck traffic, but the City is looking at education materials for trucking companies and working with various map companies to make sure that phone apps don’t direct people automatically to taking Niska Road.
As for when the road will finally be open, the exact details were not given, but it could be as long as a couple of weeks, or as short as the next week. Weather permitting