Beckett Drive Renovations Another Case Study in City Priorities

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published April 09, 2013

This from today's Spectator:

Starting this spring, the Queen Street hill will be closed for several months for $3.7 million in sewer and retaining wall repairs. The loss of the use of this access is a bit of a scary scenario, given the high volume of workaday traffic that uses it.

It will be interesting to see what happens. We will see several months of "gridlock" as motorists lose an option for getting up and down the escarpment? Or will traffic adjust after a few days of confusion?

If the second scenario occurs, I hope those claiming that we need all these under-capacity one-way streets downtown will take note, and recognize that the two-way conversion of Queen Street North of Herkimer should be no problem at all.

This is an excellent real-life experiment to test how flexible Hamilton's drivers are, and how much spare capacity we have in our roads.

The other thing to note is that, once again, there was no need for the residents of the affected neighbourhoods or the motorists who use the road to engage in a multi-year, councillor-supported campaign in the teeth of traffic department opposition, and press a council vote to force staff get this work done on the road - even though it is an expensive, multi-million dollar project.

The work is likely prudent, but it is very expensive, and it would be nice if the much cheaper - and also desperately needed - pedestrian and cycling infrastructure projects in the same neighbourhoods happened in the same straightforward incremental way, without the need for massive resident pressure!

There is also the matter of motorists and the Spectator looking a gift horse in the mouth: Yeah, we'll take the $3.7 million in repairs for this short section of road, but just make sure we aren't inconvenienced.

Nicholas Kevlahan was born and raised in Vancouver, and then spent eight years in England and France before returning to Canada in 1998. He has been a Hamiltonian since then, and is a strong believer in the potential of this city. Although he spends most of his time as a mathematician, he is also a passionate amateur urbanist and a fan of good design. You can often spot him strolling the streets of the downtown, shopping at the Market. Nicholas is the spokesperson for Hamilton Light Rail.


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By iliketobike (anonymous) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 00:08:14

I'm guessing a bike lane up Beckett is not part of the plans?

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 01:27:47

Did anyone else pick up this gem of a quote from Gary Moore of the city:

"like water running down a hill, traffic will flow to the most expeditious routes".

So, completely closing a street will lead to traffic figuring it out, but when we ask for complete two-way streets and also remind our 'planners' that traffic will find the most expeditious route, they argue and fight the entire thing and call it flawed logic.

The addiction to high speed roads and roadwork in this city is unbelievable.
Giving motorists the ease and simplicity of navigating two-way streets all through the city is considered blasphemy, but closing a street completely for the holy grail of more road construction, don't you dare question them.

I wish they were so dismissive of concerns and easy to work with when it comes to balancing our insane, life-sucking road network.

Comment edited by jason on 2013-04-10 01:28:30

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 15:17:37

"We will see several months of "gridlock" as motorists lose an option...?"

Typo? don't you mean "Will wee see...?" ?

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 16:06:29

I was under the impression that city staff used infrastructure management software that stores road condition rating data, analyzes and prioritizes road rehabilitation needs and rehabilitation strategies, and predicts future funding needs based on forecasted road deterioration.

How do we reconcile that with strategies for advancing the cause of complete streets?

Nine councillors (including lower-city councillors McHattie and Merulla) sit on the Public Works Committee, and would presumably have a long view of roadwork demands in advance of a budget cycle. Why is it so hard to take that long-view information and marry it with rehabilitative work that would advance the cause of complete streets?

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 18:05:28

I live next to this access and often witness closures as a consequence of crashes.

Many times in the past few years there have been minor upgrades, all in the name of safety, and they don't appear to be working.

I have suggested to the city that the most effective safety strategy is photo radar. For some bizarre reason, drivers on this access do not respond to the usual cues to slow down of a narrow, twisty, steep road with poor surface condition, and see it a a challenge to see how fast they can go. Several times I ascend the 50 km/h hill at about 55 and am aggressively tailgated.

The city brass has categorically rejected photo radar and will not ask the province for an exemption for this high crash rate location.

I suspect the current plans are giving in to driver's desires to speed, so the logic goes they might as well build a road that can handle high speed more safely.

Technically there is not much you can do to this road to straighten it out enough to satisfy modern requirements. Or at least that's what the surveyor guy told me a month ago.

So I predict no safety benefit from this summer long closure, as long as Hamilton drivers are self-centered and continue to speed on critical accesses like Beckett, we will need photo radar to slow them down.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted April 10, 2013 at 19:06:20

The article in The Spec never mentioned the possibility of taking the 403 instead of the other mountain access roads. A lot of the traffic up and down Beckett Drive is headed to and from McMaster and West Hamilton, and I would be happy to see those vehicles taking the 403 to and from work rather than turning Aberdeen into another city highway.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2013 at 15:16:30

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.

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By capitalizm rulz! (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 20:00:00 in reply to Comment 87813

And here we have it folks, roads are more important than people. Capitalist's grand vision of a planet criss-crossed with gleaming asphalt and nary a human in sight. His "Freeways for Feral Cats" movement starts right here in Hamilton.

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By AlHuizenga (registered) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 14:44:46 in reply to Comment 87813

Why are mountain access roads more important than cyclists?

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By taxi st paul (anonymous) | Posted April 11, 2013 at 20:35:44


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By daily driver (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 03:38:44

the city should be forced to add a bike lane to ANY section of non restricted access roadway that is rebuilt in any way during the construction. regardless of whether the bike lane connects to anything. why? because in 15 or 20 years EVERY road will have bike lanes as a matter of course at minimal cost to the city. it would seem strange at the start, but eventually all the pieces would be filled in.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 15:38:25 in reply to Comment 87831

Whilst I agree as a general concept, do you really think that there is room to put a bike lane on Beckett?

A better option would be a bike lift up the hill where the old ski lifts used to be.

Downhill isn't an issue for bikes there but uphill? I'm not brave enough to ride up, I'll carry mine up the Dundurn stairs.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 14, 2013 at 02:47:52 in reply to Comment 87837

I agree here, although don't agree with the concept. The escarpment by definition is a steep slope/cliff. Even if you had a paved, enclosed lane running the length of the Clairmont or the Jolley Cut, of which you could make a much better case for given both are two of our more generous accesses as far as incline, and have several lanes to convert, they are both still a gruelling rides on a bike.

This is why the Clairmont access was used when we hosted the cycling championships, because long steep slope is challenging even for pros to traverse. Beckett Dr. is nearly twice as steep with a third of the width use, has blind turns/twists and shifts angles quite a bit. It's even hazardous to vehicles, and I do hope this work involves levelling/straightening the road somewhat.

If you want to get up the mountain on a bike, either go up the Chedoke Radial Trail, the Rail Trail from the Mohawk Sports Park to Corktown Park, go up one of the many stairs with bike channels we have in the city or pay $2.55 and take any of the MANY bus routes that traverse the mountain and put your bike in the bike rack that all HSR buses are equipped with and support/increase ridership in public transit.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2013-04-14 02:56:54

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 14, 2013 at 13:01:25 in reply to Comment 87852

If you want to get up the mountain on a bike, either go up the Chedoke Radial Trail,

I've done that once to get to Mohawk College from downtown: it took me way to the west and left me in a twisty maze of subdivision streets. Coming home after dusk was nerve wracking: the trail is unlit and the trail heads are home to skulking teenagers.

Given the time I lost, the frustration and the dark, I'm in no hurry to do that again.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 19, 2013 at 21:56:01 in reply to Comment 87857

Fair, but that's why I provided several options...

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 18:34:46 in reply to Comment 87837

Agree. There are very few good ways to get up the mountain on a bike. Even the stairs that have bike channels are difficult.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 14:35:54 in reply to Comment 87831

Good suggestion. Bike lanes are a minimal cost addition when the road is being rebuilt. It is a bit like the decision to add curb cuts to sidewalks, starting in the 1980s, for wheel chairs and strollers.

Little by little we now have curb cuts on almost every sidewalk intersection, even though they were an innovation in the 1980s. Eventually, by the early 1990s, curb cuts were made mandatory.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted April 14, 2013 at 14:44:38 in reply to Comment 87834

Grain of salt: Curb cuts are somewhat less intrusive than bike lanes (I say this as a fan of bike lanes -- curb cuts don't threaten lane allowance, but ask nominal concessions of sidewalks), and as you concede, still not universal, 20 years after they were made mandatory.

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By Capitalisst (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2013 at 20:01:25 in reply to Comment 87834

Roads are important! more important than cripples

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