Despite what the CAO claims, we are still stuck with a flawed railway underpass

Posted February 21, 2014

In that famous television debate between Brian Mulroney and John Turner, Mulroney told the new Prime Minister that he had a choice to deny previous appointments by former PM Pierre Trudeau.

Turner lost the election to Mulroney.

It seems that the same argument applies to the inadequate clearance of the Wyndham Street underpass.

It now appears the city did have choices.

Guelph’s Chief Administration Officer, Ann Pappert, writes in the local daily that the city was unable to redesign a two-year renovation of lower Wyndham Street. This included sufficient clearance for all vehicles to pass safely under the rebuilt CNR bridge.

Instead, large commercial vehicles are hitting the new bridge complete with crash bars apparently installed by the city under direction of CN Rail infrastructure engineers.

The stunning admission reveals that the city engineers knew for two years that the clearance for all Wyndham traffic under the overpass was inadequate.

In view of this revelation, don’t you think the city should have asked for a second opinion before proceeding? In fairness Chief, you may not have been CAO when these decisions were made.

So the CAO explains that they dug down as far as they could go and replaced the underground sewers, water mains and various other cables and pipes. It still was not deep enough.

Oh well, she goes on, the project resulted in a renewed roadway, bike lanes, sidewalks and improved lighting and a “modernized bridge that will serve us well for decades to come.”

Sorry chief, the underpass still doesn’t handle large commercial truck traffic. There have been regular collisions with the bridge despite billboard-sized signs warning the underpass will not accept large trucks.

Your explanation that the bridge/Wyndham project was  “expertly designed and executed,” still fails the smell test of your elaborate explanation of a job well done.

You have to wonder why the underpass on Norfolk Street allows large commercial vehicles to pass safely under it. It’s the same railroad line and the grades are very similar.

Your essay explaining all this segues into praising the job Guelph has done in rebuilding its infrastructure since 2006.

Also you congratulate the Mayor for being named vice-chair of the Association of Ontario Municipalities Large Urban Mayors Caucus. In two years, she should become the chair provided she is re-elected in October.

Chief, why are you promoting the Mayor’s political ambitions?

While this city has been over-taxing its citizens for three years 2010 to 2012 by $86,841,000, why would you tie yourself to an elected official in such a manner? Your job is to manage the staff, not be a cheerleader for Mayor Farbridge. These excessive tax figures come from the annual city report sent to the province that must be filed annually.

It is another example of callous disregard for the interests of the community in an explanation that falls flat explaining a job not properly done.

And why didn’t you explain what all this expert work cost?

To read more details of the $86.8 million overtaxing scandal sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, check out


Filed under Between the Lines

7 responses to “Despite what the CAO claims, we are still stuck with a flawed railway underpass

  1. Keith McEwen


    I can’t say that I have any problem with keeping heavy truck traffic out of the downtown. As far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t be there anyway.


    • Keith McEwen: Wish you had brought that up three years ago when the so-called engineering planning of the underpass was happening. Unfortunately, large trucks are the only way goods may be delivered and picked up from businesses in the downtown commercial area.

  2. Glen N. Tolhurst

    As long as the businesses in the downtown area can be still adequately serviced without large trucks of any type accessing the area, Keith’s comment is realistic.
    The problem seems to be that a vast bridge renewal project provided half vast results. Being an engineer, I chuckled at the explanation given by the CAO ( a decidedly non technical and by some assessments a barely numerically or financially literate bureaucrat) about a deeper bridge deck. Somebody fed her a line of BS hoping that no one would realize that a shallower bridge deck may have been feasible by utilizing structural components of different cross sections or materials.
    Wearing her mantle as chief apologist officer (finally the true meaning of the CAO acronym becomes evident) for the tax and spend mayor and her 7 like minded councilors ( referred in other blogs as Snow White & the 7 dwarfs, not realizing all 7 dwarfs would have to have been mistakenly named Dopey) in defending $300 million in capital projects she conveniently neglects to acknowledge that some projects, like the waste mismanagement $53 million boondoggle, are part of the unsustainable tax burden legacy left for future generations.
    Well, come the October civic elections, “you know who” may no longer be able to fill the role of vice chair of the Large Urban Mayors Caucus Organization as she and her 7 council buddies will have been turfed out by an aware electorate. Following that change, hired apologists will be next to leave.

  3. Dave

    Well Glen & Keith.. I wonder how long it would be for you two to complain when stores can’t get their deliveries, meaning you lose the convenience of going to your closest store? Everyone needs to realize that trucks deliver everything you purchase. The trucks are not the issue you should be referring to. You should be outraged at the poor planning and colossal waste of tax dollars to build something totally inadequate.

  4. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Ah Gerry|: You are stuck in the big is beautiful mind set. Being a Lean Management Consultant I know that you don’t need massive tractor trailer units making deliveries in downtown environs. Those big units are OK for over the highway long haul and deliveries to distribution centres(DC). In urban retail locales smaller trucks out bound from DC’s are more efficient and effective. Having said that, the bridge caper is an all too typical FUBAR’d project from this administration. “Lowbridge” is quite the legacy for you know who.

    • Glen N. Tolhurst: Gee Glen, that being the case why are trucks still smacking into the crash bars installed on the rebuilt bridge? We do agree that this was a classic engineering debacle. And to think the CAO admitted that staff knew the clearance was inadequate two years ago. And where is the mayor in all this? Silence is golden, one might say.

  5. Glen N. Tolhurst

    Gerry & Dave: The root cause of the trucks smacking into the bridge is two-fold: a dumb indefensible bridge design and use of inappropriate sized trucks for urban delivery. Smaller trucks would provide “just-in-time” delivery of the required quantity of goods. Lowbridge is a SNAFU prone administration’s legacy exacerbated by truck size.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s