Cyclists elated as city moves to fill Thames Valley Parkway gap

It's an expensive fix but the city is now moving toward closing a gap in north London between two sections of the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP).

$7.5M link will connect sections between Richmond and Adelaide streets in north London

The Thames Valley Parkway includes 42 kilometres of paved trails. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

It's an expensive fix but the city is now moving toward closing a gap in north London between two sections of the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP).

For years, users of the trail system have been stymied by a one-kilometre break in the trail between Richmond Street near Western University and the playing fields on Adelaide Street near Windermere Road. 

This map shows the gap the city is moving to fill at the north end of the Thames Valley Parkway between Richmond and Adelaide. It will require two bridges and cost almost $7 million to link the two trail sections between Ross Park and the North London Athletic Fields. (City of London)

A bend in the Thames River east of Ross Park was a barrier but after years of consultation and negotiations for an easement over land owned by Western University, Scouts Canada and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the city is now less than two years away from bridging the gap.

A report coming to the city's civic works committee Tuesday recommends that J-AAR Excavating be awarded the $6.2 million contract to build the missing path section between Ross Park and the North London Athletic Fields. The plan also includes trail access from the north of Tetherwood Boulevard.

Doug MacRae, the city's director of roads and transportation, said filling the missing path section will require the construction of two steel bridges and involve some complicated engineering over sensitive, low-lying land with limited access. 

"It's a challenging project," he said. "There are significant constraints with respect to property."

But for the joggers, walkers and cyclists who use the path, the payoff will be huge.

About 50,000 people live near the north-east section of the trail, which runs from Adelaide over to Highbury Avenue south of Fanshawe Park road. Filling the gap will link that north east section to the TVP branches that reach south to downtown, west to Springbank Park and east to near the intersection of Hamilton and Gore Roads. 

Daniel Hall of Cycle London says once the link is built, cyclists will no longer have to cut through Old North streets and cross Richmond Street to travel between downtown and neighbourhoods in the north east. 

"It means more neighbourhoods are connected to the TVP infrastructure, which is great," he said. "It opens up a whole other area of the city." 

Including design, administration and an architectural study yet to come, the total project cost is $7.5 million. That's a sharp jump from a price tag of just over $4.2 million floated in 2016. The report says this happened in part because the project's two bridges were widened to four metres from three to better accommodate emergency and maintenance vehicles.

The Ontario Municipal Commuter Cycling program will cover $3.3 million of the cost.

The report also flags the "volatile" price of steel as another factor in the cost increase. 

It opens up a whole other area of the city.- Cycling advocate Daniel Hall

"Over a two-year period, between July 2016 and October 2018, the commodity price more than doubled," the report reads. 

Early construction work is slated to start this year, with the trail section useable by the fall of 2020. 

McRae said it will create a continuous 42-kilometre trail system that is already the envy of many other cities. 

 "We constantly hear back how popular the TVP is. It accommodates users whether they use walkers or mobility devices," he said. "It's really unmatched in London and it's a part of our city that we don't recognize enough. It really matches up against some of the top recreational cycling and pathways in North America."

It's already been a good year for London cyclists hoping to see improvements in cycling infrastructure. A bike lane is under construction on King Street and in March council approved a new bike lane on Dundas Street through Old East Village. 

MacRae said the city will also go ahead with a project to improve the connection with the TVP section at the forks of the Thames and Dundas Street. 

Hall said cyclists are hoping the city will next move to address the lack of a north-south bike lane in the core of the city. 

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About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.


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