Crosswalk Requires Multi-Year Campaign but $18 Million Road Just Appears

By Nicholas Kevlahan
Published March 28, 2013

The Spectator reports that an $18 million arterial road is planned for construction in 2014:

Guy Paparella, the city's director of industrial parks and airport development, said the new two-kilometre, four-lane arterial road will run from the foot of the Red Hill Valley Parkway ramp at Stone Church Road, almost due south across Highland Road where it will connect to Rymal Road just west of Trinity Church Road.

The new road, which has yet to be named, is expected to take some of the traffic off upper Centennial Parkway and Dartnall Road as well as serve as a catalyst for future development at the nearby industrial park.

Why do residents have to launch a multi-year campaign and gather hundreds of signatures for a $80,000 pedestrian crossing - which is then denied by the traffic department, and has to be forced through a Council vote - while an $18 million road for future expansion just appears?

Who asked for this road? How did it get into the 2006 Rymal Road Planning Area Document?

(h/t to "Rimshot")

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 textbook (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2013 at 23:50:17

Didn't just appear. It's been on the books for a while. And it's needed from a road network perspective to take traffic off Upper Mount Albion Road.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 29, 2013 at 01:27:02 in reply to Comment 87552

That road network perspective is empirically false. Road capacity obeys the Law of Demand: supply tends to expand to fill the available capacity. Traffic engineers know this - it was engineers in peer reviewed journals who proved it - but this fact does not enter into the road planning process. The result is self-fulfilling "predict and provide" road construction that ultimately just begs the question.

Meanwhile, the most basic road infrastructure for pedestrians - a road crossing in a residential neighbourhood - faces massive institutional inertia and open hostility.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 02:51:29

Wards 9 and 11 added 19K+ to the city’s population across the last two censuses -- roughly half of all population growth in the city during that timespan. Ward 2, not so much.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 03:10:53 in reply to Comment 87557

oh that's right we forgot. Ward 2 doesn't deserve investment or good quality of life. Let's change our slogan to "best place to raise a child if you're lucky enough to live on the former farm-fields of Ward 9 and 11".

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 14:34:08 in reply to Comment 87559

FWIW, nowhere have I argued that the crosswalks, dedicated bike lanes, or other walkability enhancements should be denied to residents of Ward 2 (or any other Ward, for that matter. Simply pointing out that development patterns might play a role in decision making.

That neighbourhood associations should have to push for neighbourhood-level improvements such as crosswalks is unfortunate but not astonishing. It's too bad that the former Ward 2 councillor was unable to address this matter effectively but at least it's done now.

I'm sure there are many less fortunate neighbourhoods who have been waiting for decades, not years, and who see a four-year process from wish to fulfilment as something that only well-off neighbourhoods like Kirkendall South are privileged to enjoy.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 14:07:16 in reply to Comment 87559

Simply pointing out a potential reason for the city's move to address infrastructure capacity. But you're right. It's probably a venomous plot hatched in an in camera session of the Anti-Urban Committee.

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By whoisjohngalt (registered) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 13:50:01

It's true that this project has been under study for quite some time as evidenced by this document (

Comment edited by whoisjohngalt on 2013-03-29 13:50:54

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 17:18:49 in reply to Comment 87567

Funding for the EA on the Glanbrook roadway was approved in August 2003.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 17:27:39 in reply to Comment 87572

EA funding for the Glanbrook roadway increased in August 2004:

PIC #1 for the EA on the Glanbrook roadway took place in October 2005:

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 21:21:55 in reply to Comment 87573

A passage from an email found on page 22 of the PIC PDF:

“What is happening here is we are being send the clear message. The message is that we need to cause noise in order to get something done. We all know the residents of Second Road have no problem with that, but, is it necessary? That takes time away from our families…. I am sure that if we do not see some results soon, (End of May) we will be forced to, once again, take matters into our own hands. We have been dealing with these issues for five years. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Phil, help us enjoy our first safe summer on Second Road West.”

The email is dated May 19, 2006.

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By NoSugarAdded (registered) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 20:13:36

This has been on the books since Binbrook got water from Hamilton and they new there would be a very large increase in their population. I actually thought it would have been built by now. This is for the people in Binbrook to have a direct access to the Link/Red Hill highway and a route into the Red Hill Industrial Park from the 403/QEW via the Link/Red Hill highway.

Comment edited by NoSugarAdded on 2013-03-29 20:15:32

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By Binbrookian (anonymous) | Posted March 30, 2013 at 03:00:17 in reply to Comment 87576

Actually no, this is the first leg of a new arterial road that will connect the newly opened Red Hill Business Park and ultimately connect to the Hamilton Airport if the AEGD gets approved.

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted March 29, 2013 at 20:14:59

It would appear that based on the timelines presented in the background documents found by some of the commentators, that this road project did not "just appear". In fact it seems as though it was a much longer more involved process than the pedestrian crossing signal on Aberdeen. On balance, I think that while it is regrettable that the ped crossing project faced such resistance from city staff, the signal did get installed after a one year citizen campaign, while a 10 year planning process with many opportunities for public engagement (say what you will about municipal planning public engagement but it was available) for this new road seems proportionally appropriate.

Mal's point about demographics is very appropriate and the response it drew was not. The attitude of this blog post and of some snarky replies to reasonable counter points only serves to exacerbate the urban/rural divide in this city. This is a false dualism which is being perpetuated by both sides. Instead of urbanists complaining about improvements to the intersection at Hwy 5 and 6 and the construction of this new road, perhaps instead they should take the opportunity to call for bicycle friendly designs, high standards of construction to mitigate environmental concerns, etc. A calm acknowledgement that all interests need to be served instead of whining when other areas of the city are beneficiaries of projects would be more constructive.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 30, 2013 at 17:23:34 in reply to Comment 87577

In fact, Kirkendall residents first asked for a crosswalk at Aberdeen and Kent close to a decade ago, during the Kirkendall Transportation Study.

The city responded by putting up signs directing pedestrians to walk 400 m out of their way to cross the street. It subsequently took two years of organizing, petitioning and presentations to councillors, plus another year and a bit, before the crosswalk was installed.

Even then, it was deliberately programmed to provide minimum service for pedestrians, with delays of 40 seconds to almost two minutes before a pedestrian could cross. It took months of additional correspondence and another meeting with staff before the crosswalk was adjusted to work properly.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted March 30, 2013 at 19:52:05 in reply to Comment 87588

Although Ryan has done a good job, I thought I should clarify what I meant by the $18 million road "just appearing".

I didn't mean that the road was not carefully planned and justified by future traffic projections to support anticipated future development.

What I meant was that Hamilton's Traffic Planning regime reliably maintains and builds new infrastructure for motorists year upon year, with little need for resident campaigns. And this infrastructure is extremely expensive, both to build and to maintain.

In contrast, infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and cyclists (and transit) often requires years of sustained campaigning by local residents, backed up by the local councillor, and even then it is often opposed every step of the way by the traffic department up to and including implementation.

What's worse, about ten years ago, with no public consultation, the traffic department decided to remove the signs for every pedestrian crosswalk not at a signalized intersection (i.e. those marked with signs and painted lines, but not at a traffic light or stop sign). This was because they thought these crossings would open the city to lawsuits. The net result was the loss of hundreds of pedestrians crossings and much higher risk for a few years since the painted lines were simply allowed to fade, not actually removed from the road.

[Under the Highway Traffic Act every intersection is deemed to be a crosswalk defined by the extensions of the sidewalks, although very few Ontario motorists know this and know that must yield to pedestrians crossing at such unmarked crosswalks.]

As Ryan points out, the demand for a pedestrian crossing at Aberdeen and Kent in Ward 1 goes back to before the Kirkendall traffic study in 2005. This relatively inexpensive infrastructure was needed to support existing, not projected, pedestrian traffic but was nevertheless actively blocked for years.

Similarly, two-way conversion of downtown streets has been stalled for years despite the fact that the projects were actually improved by council. Another councillor-backed resident led campaign is under way in Wards 1, 2 and 3 to try to get the approved conversions done, and do the assessment and planning for future conversions.

The basic problem is that infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and transit is still seen as something "alternative" or "nice to have", while infrastructure for motorists is treated as essential and normal. It would be nice to see all kinds of traffic treated seriously and the interests of all road users considered equally important no matter how they choose to travel.

Why does our current system reliably produce more multi-million dollar new roads and road upgrades year upon year, while basic pedestrian infrastructure like crosswalks and wider sidewalks is extremely difficult to get built?

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-03-30 20:02:06

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 31, 2013 at 15:54:58 in reply to Comment 87591

Despite the Transportation Master Plan's talk of offering "a choice of integrated travel modes, emphasizing active transportation (walking and cycling), public transit and carpooling," the City seems to favour new infrastructure construction over rehab projects, and city-wide (or, in the case of the Trinity corridor, regional) benefits over neighbourhood-level concerns. That political calculus might be more complicated in the case of something like the Trinity corridor and Glanbrook Industrial Park as planning on those date seems to back to pre-amalgamation. The question is, how do we overcome this apparent bias? Do neighbourhood-level concerns simply rise or fall based on the political acumen of ward councillors?

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 30, 2013 at 16:06:22 in reply to Comment 87577

I don't think the issue is about proportional lengths of time for each project. It's more about how those lengths of time were spent.

If the crosswalk had taken a year because the City just did it slowly, just took their time planning and scheduling the construction, we would shrug and say 'Ah, Government. What can you do?' The reason this is an issue is because the road happened so much easier - it was 10 years the city spent designing the project. With the crosswalk, it was a year that the citizens spent lobbying for a project that seems like a no-brainer in a densely populated area, and one which takes almost no planning effort and costs very little. The point is, why does an $18 million, 10-year road project happen largely under staff initiative, while a comparatively insignificant crosswalk requires intense citizen activism to accomplish? How can car-centred roads projects happen so easily and pedestrian-favouring projects be so unnecessarily difficult _in a city where streets are already optimized for car traffic_? There is already so much road capacity for cars relative to other modes of transportation, the scepticism should be slanted in the opposite way. The process for planning this road was normal public consultation. The process for planning the crosswalk was not - the point is, it should have been. It should be easy to get both projects planned, if they make sense. Have you ever heard of citizens campaigning for 10 years to get a few km of roads built?

Also important is the fact that the traffic department denied the request for a crosswalk - a matter of public safety for many local residents. Did they deny this road, which given its location will be serving only to reduce congestion? I think it says something about their priorities when expensive projects to ease passage for vehicles are approved while cheap projects that ease passage for pedestrians are denied.

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted March 31, 2013 at 18:11:48

In 20 years time no one will regret that Hamilton didn't build/widen/lengthen another highway or that more greenfields were not fed into the maw of development. There will be regret that we didn't preserve the lands on which we could feed our city and from which our waters are filtered by nature at no cost to us.

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