Traffic congestion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is costing the region $7.5 to $11 billion, $1 to $5 billion more than previously estimated, according to the latest report by think tank C.D. Howe Institute.

In addition to the economic and social cost, congestion is changing the way Hamilton businesses operate, providing local industries with both headache and opportunities.

Trucking

For Ron Foxcroft, owner of Hamilton-based trucking company Fluke Transportation Group for 30 years, traffic congestion is worsening by the week.

As the company covers locations across the GTA, it's a constant debate between sitting in the gridlock or paying the road tolls.

"No matter what, it's additional cost and it's cutting into the profit margin," he said, "In trucking, our margins are razor thin."

One of the solutions the company has adopted is to negotiate nighttime pickup and delivery whenever possible. It is not uncommon for drivers to hit the pavement at 2 a.m. and finish around noon to avoid gridlock.

Foxcroft also pointed out that Hamiltonians are no strangers to traffic heading into Toronto, but the Fort Erie-Hamilton corridor congestion also deserves more attention.

"We need the Mid-Pen Highway tomorrow," he said.

Business development

The lack of serious congestion, combined with a reasonable housing price and the quality of life, is attracting companies to Hamilton, said Neil Everson, director of the city's economic development division.

Companies are realizing that the region's gridlock not only slows down the shipment of products, it is also difficult for employees to commute daily to city centres to work. He cited the example of Canada Bread, which closed down three of their Toronto plants and relocated to Hamilton with a bigger operation.

"One of the reasons they chose Hamilton is the ability to move goods and people from our location," Everson told CBC Hamilton.

Several animation studios have also set up shop in downtown Hamilton, he added.

"It's an opportunity for us. It's a reason we are seeing growth in residential and non-residential areas."

Real estate

Neighbouring cities' jammed streets can be good news to Hamilton's real estate market, as potential buyers look to Hamilton to avoid congestion, according to Bruce Moran, president of Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

"We are seeing certain number of people coming from Toronto…a lot of them are [because] of the congestion," he said.

Another trend the local real estate market is seeing is an increase of young professionals without cars, as they move to Hamilton for the city's walkable streets.

"What they are looking for now is walkability. They don't want to drive," Moran said.