Special Report: Walkable Streets

Response from MTO on Dangerous Hwy 403 Ramps - Updated

The Transport Ministry is working with the City 'to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at several interchanges along Highway 403.'

By RTH Staff
Published December 16, 2014

this article has been updated

On November 18, the Hamilton Spectator published a letter to the editor by April Severin that raised concerns about dangerous automobile traffic through the highway ramps from Main and King Streets onto Highway 403.

It is dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists to cross at these spots because the drivers move speedily and the stream of traffic is steady during peak times such as rush hour. Why is the change in speed limit sign placed just after, not before, the marked pedestrian/cyclist crossing area on King Street West for the highway on-ramp near the cathedral? Why can't there be posted speed limit signs on the off-ramps as drivers near the crossing since they have to slow down to merge with traffic on Main Street West?

Severin also sent her letter to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), and has now received a response from Lance Dutchak, Traffic Supervisor, Hamilton and Niagara for the MTO. Following is the text of Dutchak's response:

Dear Ms. Severin,

Thank you for your email of November 18th, 2014 regarding pedestrian safety and signage at on and off ramps to Highway 403 in The City of Hamilton. City staff forwarded your email to the ministry and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

Ministry staff visited the site and located a ramp advisory speed sign on the on-ramp to Highway 403 eastbound, which is visible from King Street West. This sign, with its black text on a yellow background, provides the recommended speed for vehicles to safely negotiate the curve in the ramp. The advisory speed sign is not a regulatory speed limit and is not enforceable.

All freeway on and off ramps are considered to be part of the freeway and have the same regulatory speed limit as the freeway. Advisory speed signs are provided to indicate what speed at which a driver can safely negotiate the ramp curves. Municipal posted speed limit signs apply on municipal roads, and are not applicable to freeway on and off ramps.

The Ministry is currently working with the City of Hamilton to develop strategies to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety at several interchanges along Highway 403.

Thank you once again for your interest in making Ontario roads safer for all users.

Thanks to April Severin for raising the issue, contacting the MTO and sharing their response.

Update: April Severin also received a response from David Ferguson, Superintendent of Traffic Engineering with the City of Hamilton:

Good Morning Folks,

We are currently in negotiations with the MTO in finalizing designs for several locations to create pedestrian crossing at these types of locations throughout the city.

We are also expecting the approval of changes to the HTA in 2015 that would see changes that provide a right of way to pedestrians over vehicles.

We are currently working with PWs communications staff on how we can educate all road users of these new legal changes and will be part of our Traffic Safety work program in 2015.

36 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 10:26:49

I am glad to hear that this concern has been raised, although the advisory speed accomplishes nothing in my opinion. Can the city control the King St. on ramp with a pedestrian or bicycle activated cross walk?

Permalink | Context

By Centerline (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 12:28:55 in reply to Comment 107111

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:49:52 in reply to Comment 107130

Incorrect. After the crosswalk, the highway ramp has begun and the "pedestrians prohibited" sign has taken effect. Yes, the MTO owns everything from that point on.

Up to and including the sidewalk (and therefore its cross-walk) is municipal road.

Hamilton most certainly was allowed to put a traffic light or crossing of its choosing at the end of the ramp, the same as any other interchange in Burlington or elsewhere.

No chance whatsoever you are formally educated on transportation.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-16 14:50:54

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By why (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 10:50:45

My concern is not with the ramps, but the through traffic over the bridges. The bridges are built like highways with wider lanes and smoother blacktop and it's not uncommon for traffic to surge to 75km/h plus over the bridges. Police have even set up speed traps to capitalize on this behaviour. In my opinion the lanes need to be narrowed or even one lane removed in each direction for traffic calming.

Permalink | Context

By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 17:10:44 in reply to Comment 107112

Yes, and because traffic is surging, there is potential for conflict. More than a few people have made the remark that "this doesn't feel safe" when crossing that ped walk on the King St. on ramp. It is terrifying even for people with no mobility issues. Anecdotally, I know of a cyclist that was hit and hospitalized by a car driver turning from King st to Macklin across the bike lanes.

Permalink | Context

By arienc (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:11:17 in reply to Comment 107112

Exactly, and then people wonder why things like this happen...

Permalink | Context

By Brandon (registered) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 12:57:56 in reply to Comment 107114

At the risk of being pilloried here, the speed in and of itself doesn't mean anything safety-wise.

If there was other traffic, it was probably dangerous depending on where those vehicles were in relation to his. If he continued speeding into Westdale, it was definitely dangerous. If he hit that speed on the bridge but slowed down before the end of the bridge, it wasn't dangerous.

Was it illegal? Absolutely. Is that speed trap there for safety or $afety reasons? I don't know that I've ever seen an accident there and I'm through there on a fairly regular basis.

If we want to slow traffic down in that area, change the engineering of it. Make King 2-way or something along those lines.

Permalink | Context

By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:27:10 in reply to Comment 107114

At noon on a Sunday...

It’s the better of part of a kilometre between the crosswalk at (the east side of) Dundurn and the next crosswalk to the west on King, and people sometimes cross King at various parts of that stretch. If someone had happened to be crossing, this would have been tragic.

No clue about this individual, except for his antisocial behaviour. But the design of the street shouldn’t encourage him to act like a selfish good-for-nothing.

Permalink | Context

By Steve (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 13:28:42 in reply to Comment 107114

A speed trap known by many, except a certain 19 year old. I guess he knows about it now. Serves him right! I hope (for everyone's safety) his parents take the BMW from him.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:06:13

All freeway on and off ramps are considered to be part of the freeway and have the same regulatory speed limit as the freeway.

This seems extremely problematic to me --- essentially, they are designed and regulated for drivers to keep driving at freeway speeds while interacting with pedestrians and cyclists. Hello! That's insane!

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:28:31 in reply to Comment 107113

Actually the way that is worded makes perfect sense. The municipal roads end where the ramp begins.

The ramp, being the buffer to transition onto the highway, has no upper speed limit, other than that of the highway, so you can accelerate freely to merge.

In this example, the on-ramp does not (officially) begin until after the pedestrian crossing (unofficially the on-ramp begins at King+Dundurn). Speed limit is 50kph until after the crosswalk, then it is lawful to begin accelerating. Inversely, when exiting the highway, you can technically drive 100kph until the city street begins, but you better have slowed to 50kph before entering Main or King Street.

The phrasing on the books is itself not creating the conflict.

The conflict was created by the decision to not install traffic lights there, and implement a solution where pedestrians "wait for gap". This combined with a lack of enforcement of premature acceleration, creates the deer-in-headlights feeling when you're crossing there (I know!). Cops will wait at a school zone and pinch people still decelerating to 40 from 50, but I have never seen enforcement of people flooring it before they've left King Street and entered the ramp.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-16 14:37:39

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 09:00:13 in reply to Comment 107155

The phrasing is the problem, because it allows a situation like the one on King where immediately after the crosswalk drivers can expect to drive at freeway speeds, and they are able to start speeding up before they get to the onramp. The rules defining onramps and offramps should be designed to eliminate these conflicts, or they are inadequate. Both the city and the MTO should be explicitly responsible for ensuring that this transition is navigable by pedestrians and cyclists, and the phrasing of this regulation doesn't require any consideration for this. It should. It is insane to leave it up to the preference of traffic engineers, because in a city like Hamilton this has led to a needlessly dangerous solution. Yes, the implementation is a big problem but the fact that this rule allows it means that there is no process by which we can expect safe interchanges to be the default design approach.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2014-12-17 09:07:14

Permalink | Context

By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:25:28 in reply to Comment 107113

So the speed limit is 90km/hr for citybound traffic until they encounter a sign that states otherwise? where does the ramp end and street begin?

Permalink | Context

By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 18, 2014 at 18:24:31 in reply to Comment 107121

where does the ramp end and street begin?

Common sense would suggest it's where you enter the existing roadway on Main, and once you've passed the pedestrian crossing on King.

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 09:12:07 in reply to Comment 107121

where does the ramp end and street begin?

This is exactly the problem --- who can tell? There may be an official boundary but in practice it's entirely up to the motorist to decide whwre the boundary is and how they will navigate. We shouldn't be surprised that motorists don't slow down and watch for pedestrians, since the design doesn't suggest that they should.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:25:09

Yes, a ramp speed (yellow sign) is just an advisory and not a traffic law. But essentially, this is passing the buck on the crosswalk itself. The MTO says that anything part of the ramp is part of the freeway, but freeways don't have crosswalks... but the city says the MTO is in charge of the ramp.

So *nobody* owns the crosswalk. Who painted the lines?

Permalink | Context

By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted December 17, 2014 at 09:15:47 in reply to Comment 107119

This! Yes, the design is terrible, but the MTO regulations are also flawed because they don't force the MTO to own the problems created by bad design.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 11:28:32 in reply to Comment 107119

as far as I'm concerned, the ramp doesn't start until after the crosswalk.
The city should install a pedestrian crossing on the west side of King and restrict right turns on red in all directions at King/Main and Dundurn.

Also add a pedestrian crossing stop sign at the crosswalk before the ramp on King, and get rid of the unnecessary south lane on King over the 403 which simply ends anyhow before you get to Paradise. Use the extra space for wider sidewalks on the S side of King from Dundurn to Paradise Rd.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Centerline (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 12:33:48

I'm always amazed at the number of so called "Traffic Experts" there are on here.
What the hell did I go to University and study Transportation for than.All these experts seem to have all the answers, if you want more gridlock.

Permalink | Context

By so called "Traffic Experts" (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:37:37 in reply to Comment 107131

"What the hell did I go to University and study Transportation for than."

Based on your grammar I'm going to guess that you didn't. Also, who here is calling themselves "Traffic Experts"? "So called" only works if in fact someone has actually called themselves that. No one has.

"All these experts seem to have all the answers". Again, no one has claimed to be an expert. One goof claimed to be studying it at a university but that's as far as claims here go. But regardless of this "expert" business no one has claimed to have all the answers either.

Sorry mate, but your trolling skills are weak.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:43:50 in reply to Comment 107156

I second this, I don't believe for a second this person (passed) a post secondary transportation curriculum.

Lots of opinion here, certainly. No shortage of it on The Spec or anywhere else either. But the references to "experts" that I've heard, is begging for the city to start listening to experts that are trained in current best practices.

Permalink | Context

By Not an Expert - Real or Imagined (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 12:55:06 in reply to Comment 107131

One needn't be a "Traffic Expert" to recognize that the 403 Ramps in Hamilton look like no other 400 Series Ramps anywhere else in Southern Ontario.

These ramps enter/exit live traffic without any signals whatsoever. How can this be considered normal? This is not only dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, but also motorists.

How absurd is the Main E. ramp for those wishing to travel southbound on Dundurn? If this ramp terminated at a stop light (you know, like everywhere else) drivers could simply make their turn into the appropriate lane.......

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 13:12:21 in reply to Comment 107137

apparently you need a degree to figure this out:

www.google.ca/maps/@43.2224683,-79.9061818,3a,75y,91.01h,94.55t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s40tHIh32k2p4aCGUj8qjxw!2e0

The Main off-ramp from 403 has ample land for the ramp to curve to the right and meet Main St at a signalized intersection which would then allow cars to turn left or right (once Main is a two-way street)

Whew. That was reeeeaaaaaally difficult to figure out. Someone give me an honourary University degree.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-16 13:14:58

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 13:29:08

I also enjoy the way Breadalbane and Frid access to Main and King keep things interesting.

It's a shame no progress was made on these issues before the bridges and ramps were reconstructed/rehabbed in 2010.

brianmchattie.ca/download.php?id=94

Since then, the indication has been that the city would be on the hook for upgrading the infrastructure.

hamiltonnews.com/community/city-will-be-asked-to-fund-403-access-improvements/

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Fake Name (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 14:11:24

I have never seen a ramp end in a slip-road ramp outside of Hamilton. Not in Brantford or Guelph or Burlington or Toronto. They always end at a traffic light.

So why is Hamilton special?

Are the planners in all those other cities stupid and wrong and creating gridlock?

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 17:51:18 in reply to Comment 107153

Try Islington and the QEW in Etobicoke. There are many many others.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 20:17:34 in reply to Comment 107163

Personally, I think Islington and the QEW is a great example of why not to leave King and Dundurn like that.

Permalink | Context

By So (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 20:07:01 in reply to Comment 107163

Then it should be easy to name them all.

Permalink | Context

By jason (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 15:46:06 in reply to Comment 107153

apparently those cities didn't contact Centreline before building their roads.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 17:45:10

I wonder if it is possible to tunnel under the ramp.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 17:50:36 in reply to Comment 107161

Can't tell if sarcastic :)

But yeah, great idea. Screw the LRT, now there is an efficient use of money; spend a billion dollars tunneling under the 403 instead, just so cars can floor it when the King+Dundurn lights turn green. Awesome.

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 17:52:14 in reply to Comment 107162

Not under the 403, just under the ramp. Just build a ramp off to the north of the existing bridge under the ramp and it could come out in the parking lot at the Cathedral

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2014-12-16 17:57:07

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 16, 2014 at 20:05:54 in reply to Comment 107164

My mistake, sorry! Well while the equipment is onsite, how about a quick dig over to Fortinos to create a crossing on that side ;)

Permalink | Context

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2014 at 18:06:11 in reply to Comment 107164

Idea was discussed in detail here: http://www.raisethehammer.org/blog/2016/...

In short: pedestrian underpasses suck.

Permalink | Context

By Crispy (registered) | Posted December 18, 2014 at 09:15:56 in reply to Comment 107165

You post a link to a discussion in which you advocate rape and degradation:

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 09, 2010 at 12:29:25: "The only bright side is that FAQ, Menses, and Keenur may all be raped and peed upon."

That is just abhorrent. It is disconcerting that there was absolutely no admonishment from RTH.

Permalink | Context

By selective (anonymous) | Posted December 18, 2014 at 11:00:25 in reply to Comment 107193

WOW - that is some serious context removal right there. I just clicked over to that comment and the point of it was actually that the city should refrain from creating spaces where harassment and illegal activity can thrive. While I don't think rape jokes are appropriate, the one you quoted is not directed at any actual people but rather at symbols of vandalism.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds