It was a very informative information session at the Evergreen Centre last night about the proposed Emma-Earl Bridge. I was able to speak to a number of Ward 2 residents about their take on the impact this bridge would have on the neighbourhoods adjoining the site.
Here’s what I learned from the open-house:
*There is a real diversity of opinion on the merits of the bridge. Most of those opposed are on the West side of the river.
*Safety is a big concern. On the East side, residents want to have safe access, especially for their children, to the Trans-Canada Trail and the downtown, without going across the Speedvale Bridge which is considered dangerous for cyclists. On the West side, there is increased criminal activity along the trail, and there is fear that the walking bridge would become a gathering place for more of this activity.
*Cycling commuters in the North-East of Ward 2 want connectivity to the downtown with a safe, efficient route that, again, avoids the congested Speedvale.
*On the east side, safety for children in the busy Speedvale corridor is the biggest reason for wanting the bridge. Currently they will not use Speedvale for cycling, feeling it’s too dangerous, so the statistics get skewed around how many MIGHT use the bridge. In other words, since they don’t feel safe cycling, some residents say “there are not many cyclists in that area, so why do we need a bridge?
*There is a feeling that the city missed an opportunity, when addressing infrastructure improvements along Speedvale, to have a dedicated bike lane that would have made the bridge unnecessary. A painted line is NOT a bike line to many cycling advocates.
The walking bridge would be, to some, a real civic amenity, enabling an enjoyable recreational experience from the NE through to the downtown, and our trails are known as one of the main contributors to our reputation for having high marks in ‘community well-being’.
*Many residents along Dufferin Street feel that the additional foot and cycle traffic from the Emma-Earl bridge would affect the pristine natural environment of the river corridor along the Speed River
*There is a sense with some that safety issues along the trail need to be addressed first with lighting and increased police presence. Encampments along the West side of the river of homeless people, many of them addicts, has created fear amongst the residents. Many wonder if the expense of the bridge should be a top priority when there are so many socio/economic issues to be addressed.
*There is an acknowledged “Nimby” aspect to this issue: the bridge would have a negative impact on the west side residents, who have little reason to cross the bridge themselves, ( though better, safer access to the Speedvale/Stevenson plaza would be appreciated by some)
*Some feel that the Emma-Earl bridge would be GOOD for the environment because it would enable more people to cycle safely: they’d be using their cars less and exercising outdoors more, which has health benefits too.
*Some feel that a north-south trail connection UNDER the Speedvale bridge would be more of a priority, while others feel these two trail enhancements should go hand in hand.
*The cost of the bridge is a concern, though it may cost less than the appropriation of property and construction costs along Speedvale that would be needed to make that street a safe thoroughfare for cyclists
*There is a sense that not enough people would actually use the bridge to justify the cost and impact of the project
*The “do nothing’ option seems to be growing in popularity for a number of reasons
There is confusion around the decision making process. Some are worried that it’s already a ‘done deal’ that the bridge is going in, and that their voices were not heard. *Nothing will happen until the issue comes back to council for discussion after the environmental assessment report, and some residents are unaware of this.
*The residents along the west side of the river, who are NOT in favour of the bridge, seem more active and organized in their opposition than those on the east side who favour it. Along the east side there is a sense that as a result of this their voices are not being heard.
*There is confusion around the timing of the project. It is not generally understood that if approved, this project could take years to actually happen, especially since other trail and cycling activists around the city feel that the Emma-Earl bridge may be ‘jumping the queue’ ahead of other bridge and trail projects already in the master plan.
*The conversation around this has been divisive in the ward. Much work needs to be done to reach consensus.
I will be doing more outreach in the community around this, and would encourage all those with concerns to make their voices heard when the issue DOES come back to council. I really appreciated the civil tone of the discussion despite conflicting, passionate, viewpoints. I welcome more dialogue around this. I’m available at 519-827-6481 or email@example.com to talk to anyone interested. You are also encouraged to add comments here on “the Deuce”. As for myself, there is a lot to digest here, and I will not make a decision personally on what makes sense, till the issue is fully discussed at council and all concerns are heard. There is more to learn. Sometimes, I find, what’s best for the city as a whole is not what’s best for a particular neighbourhood. I am committed to finding a solution that IS of lasting benefit to the city, and still feels acceptable to the neighbourhoods along both sides of our beautiful Speed River.
Here is the link to the information currently available on the city website