Enjoy driving over the Niska Rd Bailey bridge while you can, because at the end of the month you'll be able to drive across it no more! In an announcement today, the City of Guelph's own engineers are saying that there are safety concerns about the bridge's abutments due to high spring water flows and heavy rainfall. As a result, the bridge will be closed on February 28 whether you walk, ride or drive.
“We’ve been able to prolong the life of bridge by completing various repairs since a 2013 report indicated the bridge was failing,” explained Kealy Dedman, City Engineer in a news release. “At this point however, the condition of the abutments combined with coming spring and summer river flows pose too big a risk for us to keep the bridge open.”
Safety has been a growing concern for the one-lane bridge for the last couple of years. A report said that the bridge was reaching the end of it's life and a new one would have to be constructed in three to five years, and that was almost four years ago. The City has since increased its inspections from twice a year to monthly, but an inspection done by an outside engineers consultant last year piled on the issue by saying that the Bailey Bridge only had about a year left in it, and to save it, the abutments would have to be entirely replaced.
“The current bridge was never intended as a permanent crossing here,” said Dedman. “Bailey bridges were not built to last, and we’re really seeing the effects of long-term use on this one, especially with the abutments being right in the water course.”
But wait a minute, weren't we going to replace the whole thing anyway? Yes, you recall correctly. In December 2015, council made the decision after a contentious debate, to approve a two-lane bridge and accompanying redevelopment of the surface road in the area of the Niska Rd crossing of the Speed River. The $5 million project is waiting for a response from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change on the Part II Order requests filed in response to the City’s Notice of Study Completion of the Environmental Assessment before decisions about construction can be made.
“Our decision to close the bridge is in the best interest of community safety,” said Dedman. “Once we receive direction from the Ministry, we can decide how to best proceed with the deteriorating bridge.”