Pedestrians favoured 'over all other users' in new LRT design plans

The latest LRT roadway designs for Hamilton show less lanes for drivers and shorter crosswalks for people.

There won't be left turning lanes at four major intersections along King St

Revised designs put before the city's general issues committee came out of the desire to put people before "all other users," says the project's director. (City of Hamilton)

Hamilton's billion dollar light-rail transit (LRT) project now includes fewer lanes for drivers, shorter crosswalks, and changes near Tim Hortons Field in its latest designs to "favour pedestrians over of all other users." 

The design changes  for the King St. route were presented to the city's general issues committee on Wednesday, including a "user hierarchy" that placed pedestrians at the top and through traffic, of cars and trucks, at the bottom. 

Kris Jacobson, director of the LRT project office with the city, said that new designs proposed cuts of almost "70 per cent" to some lanes along the corridor. 

"Our thoughts on road design are moving away from moving cars to moving people," said Jacobson.

"We're starting to take this new philosophy when it comes to road design, focusing on what moves more people better and who do we need to protect more." 

Other updates on the project included that Metrolinx has now acquired two thirds of the 90 properties needed, which means two properties have been purchased since May, when 58 were listed as purchased. It's spent $162 million on the LRT project, including $80 million on property. The update presented to council said that Metrolinx had committed another $22 million.  

The project schedule remains unchanged, with bid submissions expected in spring 2020. 

Here's what the proposed designs look like now.

There will be no dedicated left turn lane for four main intersections along King St. The traffic lights will be staggered for each direction. (City of Hamilton)

The revised designs include ditching "left turn only" lanes along King St. for four major intersections — Kenilworth Ave, Ottawa St, Sherman Ave, and Wentworth St. 

Instead, there will be one lane headed east and one lane headed west along this stretch. Left turning traffic would be accommodated with traffic lights similar to Nash Rd and Kentley Dr., where each direction is staggered. 

"The eastbound direction would go, then the westbound direction would go, then the north-south traffic would go," he said. "You don't have to worry about somebody who's turning left because you will be moving with them."

Jacobson said this will ensure cars aren't turning in front of the oncoming traffic or the LRT train. 

Fewer lanes also means the crosswalks connecting King's north and south sidewalks will be shorter.

The report presented to the city's general issues committee included updated renderings reflecting revised designs that favoured pedestrians. (City of Hamilton)

The impact on how traffic would move on this road and others like Cannon St. and Main St., according to Jacobson, will be minimal.  

"[When we tested the options] there wasn't a great difference between how the first concept...performed versus the second concept, which is now our preferred concept," he said.

"There's a significant win to us...and to the people who are using this corridor." 

Jacobson also added that the corner bends will be tightened, but will still accommodate typical larger vehicles, like garbage or fire trucks. 

While transport trucks aren't precluded from using the roads, Jacobson said they'll have to "recognize that it's not necessarily set up for them" and drive accordingly, like going slower to make the turns. 

The LRT stop by Bernie Custis Secondary School will be near the side of the road —rather than at the centre — so that people don't have to cross in front of traffic to reach it. (City of Hamilton)

The design also changed to accommodate big crowds and students in the stadium area. The LRT stop near Bernie Custis Secondary School at King St. and Melrose Ave. has moved from the centre of the road to the south side of King, adjacent to the school.

Moving the westbound lane to the other side, Jacobson said, means that students won't have to cross in front of a lane of traffic to get to the LRT stop. Jacobson said that a buffer of landscaping will separate the school and LRT stop. 

The LRT will swing around back to the centre of the road later on.  

In downtown Hamilton, the eastbound lane will only go for spurts along King. Drivers will be able to go as far east as Ray St. before the lane turns off. 

The turnoff, which was originally planned at Queen St., moved up a few blocks so as not to interfere with the Scottish Rite Club's heritage fence. Jacobson said the sidewalk will also be pulled away from the club to create more area between it and the LRT. 

The eastbound lane will appear again at Hess St to Bay St, before peeling off again. This happens several times along King before it eventually includes both an eastbound and westbound lane.

Jacobson said the changes to traffic would be "insignificant."

City responsible for managing impacts on residents

The report says that the project schedule remains unchanged. Early works - like relocating watermains - are scheduled for this year and 2020.

The next stretch of canvassing to residents will be in the spring. 

The city will be also responsible for minimizing and mitigating the impacts that the LRT will have on businesses, commuters and residents during the construction period. While the report says that "all modes of transportation will be accommodated" in planning, it said the city will try to shift commuters to consider walking, cycling, transit and carpooling. 

Jacobson said the city is taking this over rather than a third party because officials already do this kind of work. He said that the planning is in the early stages. 

The main concerns heard from people living along the corridor, the report said, include the construction, parking, loading/deliveries, and accessibility. 


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