Special Report: Walkable Streets

Waterdown Widening Another Example of Fiscal Double Standard

I can't help but wonder whether the city's fiscal watchdogs and scolds will raise the alarm about spending over $20 million to widen a single street.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 19, 2014

An article in today's Spectator reports that the Province has approved a plan to widen Waterdown Road between the Highway 403 exit and Dundas Street.

The road will be widened from two lanes to four over the six-kilometre stretch: three driving lanes and a centre turn lane. According to the article, the widening was estimated to cost $23.3 milion in 2010, of which the City of Hamilton is expected to cover 95 percent of the total.

Reading this, I can't help but wonder whether the fiscal watchdogs and scolds who complain bitterly about comparatively tiny expenditures for the Cannon Street Cycle Track and the city's bike share program will also raise the alarm about spending over $20 million to widen a single street.

I can't help but compare this project, which is being funded by taxpayers from across the city, with the area-rated Transcab service in Binbrook, which local residents recently voted to abolish even though it cost only $66,000 a year to run.

I can't help but think of Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead, who went on radio last week to complain, "Urbanists believe we've all kinds of money to spend in one area of the city. I'm tired of these whiners, quite frankly!"

Whitehead could scarcely countenance spending $800,000 downtown. Can you imagine his reaction to a project to spend $23 million downtown?

And since it needs to be said: this isn't about whether or not the Waterdown Road widening is a good idea. The issue is that Hamilton City Council boils the ocean over tiny expenditures on sustainable active transportation while approving huge expenditures on automobile infrastructure without so much as a peep of scrutiny or skepticism.

See also:

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By jason (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 12:23:18

Also, the province announced that this project doesn't require an EA.

And, why no pilot project? Why are we doing a full permanent widening? We do pilot projects constantly for anything that is a marginal improvement to cycling or transit.

With this project being completed will the drive time drop from 4 minutes to 3 minutes and 47 seconds?
Any bike lanes planned with the widening?

Did Whitehead call the residents 'whiny suburbanists' when they were asking for this project?

Comment edited by jason on 2014-12-19 12:24:03

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By JustinJones (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2014 at 12:27:21

WHY in the world would they not add cycling and pedestrian amenities to this road? It's not like it connects to a GO Transit station or anything, right?

Oh wait...

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:05:24 in reply to Comment 107225

Weird that planned bike infrastructure only extends from Fairwood to the CN bridge (100m from the entrance to a Mobility Hub), but since two-thirds of this road is within the riding of Burlington (south of Old Waterdown Rd.), maybe the absence of same was a concession made in exchange for Hamilton footing 95% of the bill.

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By msme (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 12:48:42

It's about time they widened that road!

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 12:53:38 in reply to Comment 107226

Why is that? I've driven that road a few times in the past year, midday weekdays and midday weekends, and cannot ever recall a traffic issue. I don't recall driving it at the height of rush hour.

Are there frequent traffic problems outside the morning and evening rush hours? (Obviously, rush hour traffic alone can't be the standards by which we maintain expensive street infrastructure, but I'm curious as to why it needs widening.)

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2014-12-19 12:54:51

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By Follow the Money (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:18:29 in reply to Comment 107227

FTFA: ''Craven admitted, however, a developer behind an unapproved subdivision at Waterdown and Flatt roads will believe "this does not hurt his plans." ''

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By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 12:54:42

That much money to widen less than four kilometres is ridiculous. $6.3 million per kilometre of road. And why? To facilitate the traffic caused by the new sprawl built by a handful of developers. They should be the ones to cover the costs of this.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 13:00:02

My guess is Waterdown is probably preparing to explode with more subdivisions, and they are anticipating a need to funnel that to the 403.

One question : why is Hamilton paying for this and not Burlington? Is Waterdown amalgamated with Hamilton?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 20:38:29 in reply to Comment 107229

Is Waterdown amalgamated with Hamilton?

Yes, it is.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 13:34:17 in reply to Comment 107229

The main function of the road is going to be to bring Hamilton residential taxpayers into Burlington - so Burlington doesn't see much benefit from this construction. If I recall correctly, the agreeement was that Hamilton would fund 95% of the cost and Burlington 5%.

One reason for the high cost compared to other roadway projects is because the road crosses the Escarpment.

The section south of the 403 (funded by Burlington) includes on-road bike lanes from the CNR bridge south just past Plains Road.

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By arienc (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 13:40:10 in reply to Comment 107234

According to the city of Burlington's project site, the bike lanes are going to be separated from the road by a 0.5m buffer as well.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:46:33 in reply to Comment 107235

will bike lanes cross the entire street from Dundas St to Burlington?

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By arienc (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:02:26 in reply to Comment 107246

It appears they'll only be included on the Burlington section from North Service to just south of Plains (except for the bridges, which likely won't be rebuilt for a very long time).

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:09:31 in reply to Comment 107264

makes sense. Hamilton's basic standards still way below everyone else's.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 14:09:55 in reply to Comment 107265

Wow, so the few meters of (now pointless) bike lane north of the highway is courtesy Burlington's default provisions for them on all new roads.

I guess the municipal boundary is pretty clearly marked after all :)

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 13:20:22 in reply to Comment 107229

Yes, Waterdown is in the City of Hamilton.

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 13:59:53

So apparently Metrolinx wanted to run the Dundas Street BRT from Kipling to Waterdown, originally. Then the terminus shifted to Brant, then Guelph Line ... so it's getting watered down.

That road widening can be part of a smart growth strategy. Aldershot is a great hub, and with streets done right multi-modal access can be beautiful from the north and the south. With a Dundas RT if you work along the northern corridor and GO Train if you work along the southern corridor.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:50:44 in reply to Comment 107236

yea, a real smart growth strategy is happening in Waterdown with it's compact, walkable development, safe bike infrastructure and rapid transit plans......


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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:28:01

It looks like Burlington's portion of the project will be beautifully done. presentation(see p.17 for cross section).

North of the 403, on-road bike lanes briefly reappear, and they were painted on after the recent re-paving. Does anyone have any information on the northern portion? There are clues to suggest on road bike lanes will continue.

As for the bridges, I have no information either, but expect the bike lanes to stay disappeared over the bridges, because they weren't widened and let's face it, the 4 traffic lanes are going to trump that discontinuity.

Other than the probable usual challenges at highway interchanges, that it looks like that street is going to see a pretty dramatic and positive transformation!

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2014-12-19 14:42:37

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 14:55:33 in reply to Comment 107240

There's currently only sidewalk on the west flank of the bridge expanse, so I guess the prudent course of action is to dismount, walk your bike across the bridge, then improvise. Are there bike lanes leading to the Aldershot GO Station?

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted December 19, 2014 at 15:30:14 in reply to Comment 107243

No. Right now there is a tiny snippet of bike lane north of the 403. Which only makes sense if there is a plan to continue them northward. Although ... I wonder what plans are for the vacant land on the south side of Aldershot GO ... maybe one day there will be station access on that side, who knows!

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 10:38:41

FWIW, this is a 3.5 km stretch of road (1.2 in Hamilton, 2.3 in Burlington). The "6km stretch" might be current lane kilometres.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 20, 2014 at 11:39:03

Another image that reflects Hamilton to a tee: https://twitter.com/BrentToderian/status...

We refuse to hold the province on their promise to pay for our LRT system. Why? Because we believe spending any money on transit is a waste, regardless of who's paying.

But drop over $25 million so drivers can save 38 seconds on their trip? We'll gladly pay for it all and not bother the province or Burlington to cover a fair share. We're rolling in dough over here! Don't worry about it. We can pay for this all on our own.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted December 26, 2014 at 00:52:02

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

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted December 28, 2014 at 10:00:53

Likely most of the cost is due to the rail overpass at grindstone creek that they will have to rebuild to fit four lanes. I wonder if they will be demolishing the old buildings at the intersection.

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By Loving it (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2015 at 18:49:17

Are you kidding? When Hamilton annexed Waterdown/Flamborough we got financially raped. Hamilton was hungry for the tax base at that time and now with more than 9000 new homes going in is even hungrier. Therefore, giving Waterdown/Flamborough residents more and better access to GO, the pipeline to many a residents earning power is just plain good business.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2015 at 18:58:43 in reply to Comment 108234

financially raped


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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 21, 2015 at 09:50:04


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