An east-end Hamilton councillor has put forward a compromise plan to develop a firm timeline to open a series of nine downtown one-way streets to two-way traffic.
On Wednesday, Coun. Chad Collins told his colleague on council’s general issues committee that he will be submitting a motion that, if approved, would see Rebecca Street undergo a two-way conversion this year. The proposal would also staff ask city staff to develop a plan to turn eight more streets into two-ways over the next five years.
The changes have been approved by previous councils and are outlined in the city’s Downtown Transportation Master Plan, but have sat on the books for more than 10 years.
“We know the benefits associated with two-way conversions in terms of making streets safer, more pedestrian-friendly,” said Collins. “And this part of an initiative that was announced a decade ago now.”
Collins's move avoided a potentially divisive debate about a dramatic proposal to create a five-year plan to convert many of the lower city’s one-way streets to two way. Those conversions will still be examined as part of the city's transportation planning.
According to a report from city staff, the Rebecca Street conversion would cost $50,000. Collins said he will ask council to set aside unused funds from the city’s annual traffic calming budget to fund the alteration.
The Rebecca Street conversion would likely be finished in four to six months after it's approved, he said.
The city estimates the additional eight conversions — which would affect stretches of Hess Street South, Caroline Street South, Bold Street, Duke Street, King William Street, Hughson Street North and Park Street North — will cost a total of $1.1 million.
'I think the pace of what do is very important and how we fund these conversions is important as well.'—Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson
Collins suggests the decisions could be made during the next round of budget discussions and hopes two conversions would occur each year for four years. He said attaching the proposed changes to the budget debate will make the process run more smoothly.
"These issues are always difficult when it takes a political motion to move an initiative forward. It’s much easier to move these strategic infrastructure projects ahead when they’re part of a strategic plan and they’re part of a budget process," he said.
“The implementation of the next eight streets... will largely depend upon whether staff and our council can find the necessary resources on existing budgets to accommodate them in future years.
“Right now, that’s not taking place.”
His suggestion comes amid a heated Hamilton-wide debate about the future of transportation in the city. City council nixed a plan to create a citizen panel to examine proposal for more two-way conversions on streets that include big downtown thoroughfares like King and Main streets.
Coun. Tom Jackson, who has expressed in the media his frustration on the number of proposals in the city to change the city’s transportation network, called Collins's plan “prudent.”
“I think the pace of what do is very important and how we fund these conversions is important as well.”
Collins is expected to introduce the motion at the next meeting of the city’s general issues committee, which is scheduled for May 7.