Anyone who was hoping to be driving on the newly renovated Queen Street Hill in a week or two is going to have to wait a little while longer.
The road reconstruction project that was originally started back in June likely won’t be finished until the end of October, and will cost more than the original $4.3 million estimate, says Gary Moore, the director of engineering services with the city’s public works department.
“We’re still monitoring it week by week,” Moore told CBC Hamilton. “We don’t right now see anything lasting past the end of October.”
The project was originally slated to finish up in early September – but a single special butternut tree and the need for more retaining walls pushed back the process.
A few dozen butternut trees were found along the embankment of the hill and had to be catalogued with the Ministry of Natural Resources as they’re listed as a species at risk.
One specific tree showed a resistance to butternut canker – a fungus that has had a devastating impact on North American butternut populations – so further steps had to be taken to protect it, Moore says.
'When you take away one link that handles upwards of 20,000 vehicles a day, you’re going to see congestion.' -Gary Moore, director of engineering services
Crews also found that more retaining walls than originally estimated are needed to protect against erosion and reduce slope movement on the embankment. Those additional walls will drive the price of the project up, but Moore couldn’t yet say by how much.
“I don’t have the updates yet,” he said. “We’ll be going to council at some point and reporting that, probably close to the end of the job.”
The retaining walls are up, and sidewalk work has finished at the top and the bottom of the hill, Moore says. But there is still roadwork, lighting, restoration and paving yet to do.
The contractor on the project is working as much as daylight will allow at this point, he says. Currently, crews are working from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, and even some Sundays. “There just isn’t much time left for him to extend,” he said.
The city won’t open the hill with partial construction still happening because it’s too narrow to close lanes and still have decent traffic flow, Moore says.
Since the closure, some have bemoaned the wait times on other routes heading up the Mountain. Moore says West 5th has been clogging the most, though the Jolley Cut and Claremont Access have been flowing “pretty well.”
“When you take away one link that handles upwards of 20,000 vehicles a day, you’re going to see congestion.”