Traffic concerns are always a hot topic in Hamilton and Cannon Street has been the latest throughway to spur discussion in the city. Now, potential plans to upgrade the neighbourhoods surrounding the Pan Am stadium include converting Cannon Street to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, meaning those championing a conversion of the major artery might be in luck.
About $23 million could be invested to improve the area that surrounds the $140-million, 22,500-seat stadium currently being built for the 2015 games. On Thursday, a preliminary plan for the community upgrades was presented after a year of consulting with residents in the area.
The plan proposed construction of a new high school, baseball fields and an expansive community centre including a pool, dance facilities and a senior centre. It also included suggestions for converting Cannon Street to two lanes, with bike lanes and street parking.
"We were looking at calming traffic: two lanes, bike lanes and a different curb design so the street can be closed off on events days and become completely pedestrian," Paul Johnson, one of the city staff working on the proposal, said.
He said reactions to the proposals in general were mixed, although changes will still be made before the plan is presented to council for approval.
"Not everyone felt we nailed it on the first try," he said, adding some parts of the project will be easier to see through than others. The community centre, priced at $17 million, will be presented to the city's PanAm subcommittee when they meet on May 28, while other aspects still need more feedback to fine tune.
The Cannon Street conversions will likely be met with mixed reactions as well. Currently, there is a grassroots campaign to see major changes to the collector road. "Yes We Cannon" aims to make the street slower and more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Justin Jones, one of the organizers of the "Yes We Cannon" campaign, said they were pleased the conversions made it to the proposal, but noted the proposal only accounted for a small stretch of the street.
"Cannon Street is only working for one thing right now, which is to transport cars out of the city," he said. "Even though sidewalks can be fairly wide there, they can feel narrow because you're walking beside traffic going at 70 kilometres per hour."
He said the group believes converting Cannon Street fits into the city's expressed goal of making Hamilton the best place to raise a family in Canada.
"A street where children can't play is not compatible with that goal."
Jones admitted the idea doesn't appeal to everybody. For commuters in the East or West ends of the city trying to get through fast, Cannon is the quickest way and slowing it down could cause some friction.
But the "Yes We Cannon" supporters are moving forward and hope to get some changes to the street in the budget for 2014 and with the possibility of tying it in to preparations for the Pan Am games on the table, Jones said they're more hopeful than ever.
"We can really take this and use it as an opportunity," he said.
"The future is not four lanes of 70 kilometre per hour traffic. That's the past."
An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to Mike Kirkopolous, who works in the city manager's office. In fact, the comments in question were made by Paul Johnson, the city's director of neighbourhood development strategies.Sep 12, 2013 3:55 AM ET