By Randy Kay
Published June 27, 2011
Hamilton's Transportation for Liveable Communities has just sent a letter to the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister for Transportation, to express concerns about the road construction projects on the Main and King Street bridges over Hwy 403. Copies of the letter were sent to Minister Sophia Aggelonitis, MPP Ted McMeekin, MPP Andrea Horwath, Hamilton City Council and City Alternative Transportation Manager Daryl Bender.
Transportation for Liveable Communities is writing to draw attention to the problems created by construction projects underway on King Street and Main Street bridges over Highway 403 (Chedoke Expressway) in Hamilton ON.
Rehabilitation of the bridge decks has created a hazardous and disruptive environment for city cyclists and pedestrians.
The loss of both east and west bound bicycle lanes on the King Street bridge (the busiest route for cyclists) forces cyclists to ride in traffic westbound, and to either dismount and walk across the narrow sidewalk eastbound (or in practice, ride along the sidewalk), or to detour to the Main Street bike lane over the bridge, which is narrow with an uneven road surface; the problem with the Main Street detour is compounded by the lack of bike lanes before or after the Main Street bridge, and the two highway off ramps.
For good reason, very few cyclists choose this route, pre- or during construction.
Alternative routes beyond these two bridges are either too out of the way (waterfront trail, a 4 kilometre detour with steep stairs to/from the waterfront trail) or closed during construction (West Hamilton Rail Trail - 3 kilometre out of the way). The only other possibility would be on-street using Aberdeen/Longwood, but without bike lanes on Longwood, this is unlikely to be widely used.
For good reasons of policy, both provincial and municipal governments should be taking pains to ensure the safety of sustainable transportation users. The lack of options for crossing the impediment of highway 403 flies in the face of stated objectives by the Ministry of Transportation that recognize "A sustainable transportation system offers convenient, comfortable, safe, efficient and well-integrated mode choices." Multi-modal choices are to "reduce our reliance on the automobile as the primary transportation mode", which the current situation fails to do.
Interestingly enough, halving the automobile lane capacity during construction has not created traffic chaos on King or Main street bridges. Indeed, TLC advocates a further lane reduction on King Street to permit the use of the curb lane (north lane) for a contra flow cycling lane, and leaving one lane for vehicles entering Westdale.
Observed flows suggest this treatment would not impede traffic in a way to cause anything other than occasional minor delays, if at all.
So, to recap, we have gone from two-way protected bike lane on King, and an eastbound bike lane on Main to:
No westbound bike lanes;
One poor quality eastbound bike lane but only over Main bridge (i.e. not connected to bike lanes);
Detours suggested by city that are not convenient or practical;
Pedestrians and cyclists forced together on a narrow sidewalk (King Street).
TLC strongly urges the Ministry of Transportation Ontario work with the city of Hamilton to immediately restore a demarcated contra-flow bicycle lane during the re-construction of the bridge surface on King Street.
We would appreciate a response to our serious concerns.
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