Special Report: Light Rail

Highway 403 Interchange No Barrier to Main Street Two-Way Conversion

Having the highway exits meet Main at intersections rather than on-ramps would allow two-way traffic on Main and also de-velocitize drivers coming off the highway.

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 26, 2016

One of the arguments we often hear against the two-way conversion of Main Street is that it would be too expensive and/or difficult to change the interchange with Highway 403. I don't want to guess at what the cost of such a change would be, but the difficulty and complexity seems to me to be quite minimal.

Here is a satellite map of Highway 403 (north-south highway bending down and to the left) where it crosses Main Street (left-right street at bottom) and King Street (left-right street at top):

Highway 403 interchange with Main and King Streets, exit ramps to Main highlighted (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Highway 403 interchange with Main and King Streets, exit ramps to Main highlighted (Image Credit: Google Maps)

I have highlighted the highway exits from eastbound (the red line coming up and right from the bottom left) and westbound (the red line coming down and to the right from the top centre).

As you can see, both ramps intersect Main Street at an angle, allowing highway drivers to merge right into the eastbound-only traffic on Main.

Both of these ramps run on the ground and at grade with Main Street before they actually reach the street. We can bend them to meet Main at a right angle without having to do any changes to a bridge or overpass. In the following map, I have highlighted the routes that these exit ramps can take to meet Main Street at right angles.

Highway 403 interchange with Main and King Streets, exit ramps to Main adjusted for right-angle intersection (Image Credit: Google Maps)
Highway 403 interchange with Main and King Streets, exit ramps to Main adjusted for right-angle intersection (Image Credit: Google Maps)

The two intersections would be around 150 metres apart, which is just far enough to put traffic signals at each intersection.

Having the highway exits meet Main at intersections rather than on-ramps accomplishes two things. First, obviously, it allows traffic to flow in both directions on Main Street. Second, it serves to de-velocitize drivers coming off the highway so that their internal sense of speed is reset for driving on city streets.

Sanity Check

To double-check my analysis, I physically scouted the area where the highway exits meet Main Street and took some photos to demonstrate how plausible this is.

Here is the ramp from the westbound highway: you can see it bending to the left to merge with the eastbound traffic on Main.

Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street bending east
Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street bending east

Here's a view of the ramp looking east from Main Street:

Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street, view from Main
Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street, view from Main

The good news is that the spot where the exit ramp would have to bend to meet Main Street at a more perpendicular angle is already bare gravel.

Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street, gravel beside ramp
Highway 403 westbound exit to Main Street, gravel beside ramp

The situation is similar when you look across the street to the exit ramp from the eastbound highway lanes.

Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street, view from across Main
Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street, view from across Main

The ramp comes off the highway and ramps gradually upward to meet Main Street at grade.

Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street looking up-ramp
Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street looking up-ramp

Likewise, this exit ramp has no bridge or overpass to deal with, so it's a matter of bending the end of the ramp where it meets Main Street.

Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street, looking toward Main
Highway 403 eastbound exit to Main Street, looking toward Main

In fact, it is not actually necessary to re-orient both exits to enable two-way traffic. The exit from the eastbound highway could be left as it is, with the restriction that vehicles exiting this way can only turn east onto Main. That is already the case today, so it would not further restrict turning movements for people driving cars.

Of course, the exit from the westbound highway definitely needs to change, because the current ramp intersection would have traffic merging the wrong way into the westbound lanes of Main Street.

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 writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:38:47

Maybe then the access to Frid Street could not be psychotic, too. Every time I drive my kids to Soccer World or Gravity gym, Frid/Main is white-knuckles.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 13:49:58

I'd like to see Cannon go two way first or at the very least a single lane one way. From John all the way to Sherman it is almost entirely residential and yet it is a two lane one way street that encourages fast driving. I routinely see cars jockeying for position on that street driving way too fast. I've also noticed Cannon improving slowly but surely. It could be a really nice street as it already has some beautiful but badly neglected old houses along it. If we could make it feel like a safe street the change might come even faster.

I think with the coming LRT there won't be much argument about making Main two way. With the IV cut off to traffic it will HAVE to be two way.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2016 at 14:05:16 in reply to Comment 117920

I think with the coming LRT there won't be much argument about making Main two way.

It seems to be a no-brainer to me. According to City LRT staff, a transportation consultant (Steer Davies Gleave) is currently doing traffic analysis on the proposed LRT alignment and will provide data to indicate whether two-way conversion of Main is warranted. This is the same consultant that worked with the City in 2010-2011 and recommended two-way conversion at that time, so I'm optimistic.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 15:23:30 in reply to Comment 117921

Ryan, this proposal is nothing short of brilliant. I'm guilty of thinking this was a major hurdle to making Main two-way. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. I will be extremely disappointed if Main isn't converted to two-way. I'm not the best at visualizing but I find it hard to reconcile where all of the westbound traffic is going to go if they don't reconfigure Main.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 19:25:37 in reply to Comment 117924

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2016 at 14:44:09 in reply to Comment 117921

As if Certain Councillors will give a damn what the experts say. Whitehead will use that as an excuse to start trying to kill LRT altogether.

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By Core-B (registered) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 15:17:24

Apparently "some" of the questions might be answered tomorrow. The city website is going to have something for us to chew on.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 15:33:18 in reply to Comment 117923

I thought the plan was to be revealed May 2?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2016 at 16:26:41 in reply to Comment 117925

The alignment for the LRT will be revealed tomorrow in a report to the LRT Subcommittee, but the decision on Main Street won't be made until after the traffic studies are completed this summer.

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By OK (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 18:18:26

So you can get off. with ll due respect that is a no brainer. How do you get on?

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted April 26, 2016 at 18:40:46 in reply to Comment 117928

How do you get on?

Same way you get on via Main Street now: you don't :) You go South to Aberdeen or North to King.

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By OK (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 19:12:05 in reply to Comment 117929

Let me be more explicit than my question below.

Today I drive down one way king to get on the 403 either east or west bound. Pretty simple. That is currently usually three plus lanes of traffic. When the LRT is there I will be in one lane going West on King. If the king ramp is still open I can go East but not west because I cant get across the LRT. Does that mean I have to travel down Dundrun to Aberdeen or Lonngwood to go west? Or will a new span across the 403 let me turn left of King going west on the 403?

Main Street Traffic is going West as well. They will have to go down Dundurn to Aberdeen or proceed all the way to Longwood. Isn't that going to create significant traffic on Dundurn and Longwood?

And what about the traffic going north on Dundurn from Main. If the King ramps are open your are saying that people can go up Dundurn from Main to King and onto the 403. Wont that significantly increase the traffic on Dundurn particluarly as you will now have to stop to trun left at King and merge with the king traffic and somehow get around the LRT?

Does this not look like a traffic nightmare?

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By tipoficeberg (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 08:59:47 in reply to Comment 117932

I don't think anyone has really any idea of the magnitude of this change. Wait until no-one can get down King behind the Go Buses stopping for their stops at rush hour. King will essentially be off limits. Main will be a parking lot in the morning and in the evening and no-one will want to be anywhere near the intersections of Dundurn and King or Main. People living on Aberdeen are going to go nuts. Getting on and off the 403 is the least of our worries.

Any bets if any business is going to want to move into Stelco Tower?

We don't have a hardware store in the dowtown core now. I am sure some traffic dependent business will be more than happy to move in.

Good luck on all of this.

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By Get a Grip (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 09:09:17 in reply to Comment 117946

Right. Hamilton is soooo different and soooo unique that it HAS to be the only city with traffic exiting 400 Series Highways into live traffic.

The only thing that makes us unique is the attitude of the spoiled entitled drivers that think it is their Constitutional Right to blast through this town unimpeded at all hours of the day.

Oh, and free parking too please. Life in the bubble of Hamilton!

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By yeah (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 12:38:45 in reply to Comment 117948

Yeah all those spoiled entitled 90% of the population.

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By Ante Up (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 13:22:39 in reply to Comment 117974

You forgot to double down and insist that the one ways be rolled out up on the Mountain too.

I mean some of your 90% live there don't they?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 13:10:01 in reply to Comment 117974

Nice try, most people aren't waving their arms around predicting disaster like you are.

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By Where (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 14:41:23 in reply to Comment 117976

Where are the Go buses going to go?

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By z jones (registered) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 14:56:49 in reply to Comment 117987

As if you care one whit where the GO busses will go.

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By notloyd (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 20:55:26 in reply to Comment 117988

I don't think he cares about the Go buses, I think he cares about all the traffic backed up behind the Go buses. Duh!

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted April 27, 2016 at 19:29:38 in reply to Comment 117988

But you're the answer guy. Where will it go, oh wise one?

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By OK (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 18:55:01 in reply to Comment 117929

Aren't they thinking about closing the king Exit?

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By DavidColacci (registered) | Posted April 26, 2016 at 19:09:01 in reply to Comment 117930

no.

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By johnny_velvet (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 10:49:44

I understand when you measure the volume over the course of the day, this may seem like a logical step. However, has anyone driven along the 403 both EB and WB during peak rush hour. The back up for both exits are already at a standstill.

Q. what is the logic of adding lights in an already "commercial" area? I agree with others, that all you will be doing is pushing that traffic to more residential exits like Aberdeen.

The exits highlighted act as a "gateway" and therefore the area developed around this area is non-residential...I don't see the point of adding lights and 2-way conversion.

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By What's Done is Done? (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 10:54:57 in reply to Comment 118017

So we've already ruined the area by making it a traffic sewer, so let's just leave it that way?

How about the whole paradigm needs shifted. Every sprawl home built on the southern edge of Hamilton adds AT LEAST one more car to that rush hour congestion you reference. That's part of the cost of the sprawl - congestion - time.

Let's start by stopping to add to the problem.

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By johnny_velvet (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 11:12:48 in reply to Comment 118019

Where are you referring to when you say "southern edge"? Mountain? Ancaster? South of Main?

If referring to Ancaster area, my sample may be small, but the majority of the people I know in that area work in GTA and therefore do not access the said ramps. I am referring to those who live in the urban areas of lower Hamilton who travel to GTA for various reasons. From that sample, people have complained about the backlog at the Main St exits when trying to get home versus those who continue up the 403 to the LINC and beyond.

Overall, I agree with the need for a paradigm shift...we need density and we need smart planning. I just don't feel adding lights to an off-ramp will start the paradigm shift. My 2cents.

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By Please (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 12:59:14 in reply to Comment 118020

A large number of those vehicles are using Main St. to get to the mountain accesses. You can make better "time" getting off the highway.

How many other cities have designed their streets to encourage people to get off the highway and cut through the city?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 21:47:36 in reply to Comment 118023

A large number of those vehicles are using Main St. to get to the mountain accesses.

Sounds plausible. Data, please.

How many other cities have designed their streets to encourage people to get off the highway and cut through the city?

Guess you've never been to Mississauga or any other bedroom community in the GTA. Milton also comes to mind.

Comment edited by DowntownInHamilton on 2016-04-28 21:48:18

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2016 at 05:07:24 in reply to Comment 118034

Hamilton is a city, not a bedroom community, and it needs to start acting like a city again. Even now, 70 percent of Hamiltonians work in Hamilton, and around 40,000 people commute into the city each day to work.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 30, 2016 at 19:38:14 in reply to Comment 118035

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By johnny_velvet (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2016 at 09:03:19 in reply to Comment 118035

I am a part of that 70%...and proud to do so. The type of work my wife does, we have made a conscious decision that it be best she works outside of our community. That's a personal choice. I would however like to point out that even you say "40,000 people commute into the city each day to work".

Now until our intra-region transit system is operating at fully efficiency, I assume a lot of those 40,000 will still be driving cars into Hamilton and using the Main St. E to get to work.

On a side note, we are eagerly awaiting the plans for Highway 5/Dundas St to go rail so that we can get our commuting car off the road as well.

Happy Friday!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted April 30, 2016 at 19:39:34 in reply to Comment 118045

Hey, I'd love to work in town but IT is non-existent in our city, which is a shame.

I'd also love to get rid of my car and use transit to get in to work, but I can't afford to take 1.5-3 hours by transit when it's half that by car. My time's more important than that.

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By Youselfishone (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2016 at 06:26:07 in reply to Comment 118035

Ancaster, Dundas and Waterdown are part of Hamilton and are a part of the 70% that work in the city and need to get into the downtown every morning efficiently and safely. It is offensive that you put their interests below the ideal of living in some Dutch like city or behind the interests of those who want to develop the downtown core.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2016 at 07:00:03 in reply to Comment 118036

You do realize that making Main Street two-way will make it easier for drivers to navigate through the city once the LRT is built, right?

Also, I can't help but notice that your commentary is cruder and more trollish when you post anonymously than when you post under your registered username.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2016 at 09:19:48 in reply to Comment 118039

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2016 at 15:02:21 in reply to Comment 118082

Jim, the name-calling needs to stop. If you can't express your opinions without a side of abuse, you'll have to find somewhere else to express them.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2016 at 03:51:46 in reply to Comment 118083

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 02, 2016 at 05:05:16 in reply to Comment 118085

Jim, the personal attacks need to stop. If you can't express your opinions without abuse, you will need to find somewhere else to express them.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2016 at 05:23:01 in reply to Comment 118086

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 02, 2016 at 06:07:12 in reply to Comment 118087

Your commentary on this site has been abusive, corrosive and damaging to the quality of discourse. I have received a number of complaints about it and I am asking you to stop the abuse. Further comments that violate the site's guidelines on civility will be removed.

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By jim (anonymous) | Posted May 03, 2016 at 04:33:29 in reply to Comment 118088

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By And (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2016 at 06:15:58 in reply to Comment 118039

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By harder (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2016 at 07:46:55 in reply to Comment 118039

No it will make it harder

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By Comprehension (anonymous) | Posted April 29, 2016 at 06:42:59 in reply to Comment 118036

No one is talking about closing the roadway.......

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By king (anonymous) | Posted April 30, 2016 at 06:48:33 in reply to Comment 118037

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By Me Me Me (anonymous) | Posted May 01, 2016 at 08:38:15 in reply to Comment 118070

What do you not comprehend about the difference between an arterial road and a highway?

Are Mohawk and Fennell arterial roads?

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted April 28, 2016 at 12:35:58

You could go one step further, and move the intracity bus terminal to the site of Cathedral Park

bus

This would achieve several positive things:

  1. Intraurban buses would be spared the unpredictable slog east and west off the 403 to reach the GO Centre or the McMaster terminal.
  2. GO passengers wouldn't need to wait for the bus going to their destination within Hamilton (downtown or McMaster) -- they could use the first bus to the 403 terminal, and complete their trip on LRT.
  3. It would be very easy to create new express bus routes using the 403 terminal as a mobility hub. For example, Meadowlands - 403 Terminal - Aldershot GO.
  4. Congestion on east-west streets would be reduced by removing intraurban buses.

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By mdrejhon (registered) - website | Posted April 29, 2016 at 12:43:57 in reply to Comment 118021

This seems to make a lot of sense as an integration into a TOD redevelopment of Dundurn Mall.

It is probably way too early, but Dundurn Mall will eventually become old and need a big renovation in 20 years (that's within 10 years after LRT opens), so this could be a good opportunity to integrate a bus terminal in this style.

In 20 years from now, Dundurn Mall developers would probably salivitate on the idea of expanding if the LRT is popular -- possible/partial underground parking, 2-storey terraced retail, more walking/patio friendly areas, more retail that is also pedestrian-friendly. Existing McD can stay as it is new enough to last. Strip (except maybe a Fortino refacading) would be a teardown-reno of some kind.

Perhaps they are already brainstorming?

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