Guelph, Ont., February 13, 2017—The City is closing Niska Road bridge to all traffic—drivers, pedestrians and cyclists—beginning February 28. The City is closing the bridge indefinitely due to safety concerns about the bridge’s condition and the unstable effects high spring water flows and heavy rainfall can have on the bridge’s main support structures (abutments).
“We’ve been able to prolong the life of bridge by completing various repairs since a 2013 report indicated the bridge was failing,” noted Kealy Dedman, City Engineer. “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.”
Pedestrians and cyclists are at as high a risk as drivers because the nature of the deterioration is structural. High or fast flowing water can further damage or deteriorate the bridge’s support structures.
A 2013 report from an external engineering consultant indicated that the bridge was nearing the end of its useful life and would need rehabilitation or replacement within three to five years. In 2016 the City increased external engineering consultant inspections to twice a year, with City staff checking the condition of the bridge monthly. Bridge inspection reports filed by the external engineering consultant in 2016 estimated the bridge’s remaining service life at about one year.
The original bridge crossing the Speed River collapsed in 1974. That bridge was replaced by the Bailey bridge, loaned from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, as a temporary solution.
“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.”
The bridge was closed to replace deck boards in April 2015. These surface repairs allowed the City to keep the bridge open for almost two more years. These repairs were made to address the long-term structural integrity of the bridge, which the City has continued to monitor. The structural issues cannot be addressed through repair and would require replacement of the abutments.
Next steps yet to be determined
The City is waiting on a decision from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change regarding Part II Order requests filed in response to the City’s Notice of Study Completion of the Environmental Assessment before deciding on next steps for the bridge. A permanent solution for the bridge will decided once the City receives the Ministry’s response.
“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.”
Niska Road bridge structural engineering inspection report 2012 [PDF 9MB]
Niska Road bridge structural engineering inspection report 2013 [PDF 9MB]
Niska Road bridge structural engineering inspection report 2014 [PDF 12MB]
Niska Road bridge structural engineering inspection report May 2016 [PDF 8MB]
Niska Road bridge structural engineering inspection report October 2016 [PDF 15MB]
For more information
Kealy Dedman, City Engineer
Engineering and Capital Infrastructure Services
519-822-1260 extension 2248