Don't change any streets until we've planned for LRT: Whitehead
Construction will mean diverting 17,000 vehicles
The city is beginning to plan for light-rail transit (LRT) construction, so lower-city councillors should stop proposing any changes on their streets that might impact traffic flow.
That's the predominant message behind a move by Terry Whitehead, a Ward 8 city councillor, who's trying to make it a rule that no one makes any dramatic changes to their streets until planners finish traffic studies around LRT.
There's already a list of one-way streets approved for two-way conversion, he said. There's already an approved list of future bicycle lanes.
They're trying to figure out where they're going to put 17,000 vehicles.- Terry Whitehead
Otherwise, Whitehead said, there should be no talk of complete streets or "road diets," or other moves that affect traffic flow. It just makes it harder for people who are planning where traffic will go when King Street closes for LRT construction.
"They're trying to figure out where they're going to put 17,000 vehicles," he said. "If you lower the capacity now, that will only frustrate the needs of this community."
Whitehead's move comes just as Aidan Johnson, a west-end Ward 1 councillor, is trying to convince fellow councillors to vote for changes to Aberdeen Avenue.
The street is unsafe, he argues, and needs more measures to protect cyclists and pedestrians. He'll try to persuade others at a general issues committee on Dec. 2.
But Whitehead says these sort of "one-off" measures are exactly what he wants to stop.
"Aberdeen is one of those arterial roads that come of the 403," he said.
Be careful when you mess with arterial roads because it impacts all of us, not just your neighbourhood.- Terry Whitehead
"Let us finish the study first."
Hamilton's new LRT line along King from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, and along James North to the West Harbour GO station, isn't even due until about 2024. But already, its spectre looms ever larger in the city's decision making, particularly when it comes to traffic.
Traditionally at the council table, lower-city representatives such as Johnson lean toward complete streets and two-way conversions. Mountain councillors such as Whitehead are more resistant to the idea, saying such measures impact their residents' ability to move around the city.
LRT construction will start in 2019. Whitehead wants to a moratorium until the LRT project team finishes its traffic impact studies, which could be years.
Traffic was a major source of debate at a city council meeting on Wednesday, when Whitehead gave other councillors a heads up that he'd introduce his motion on Dec. 9.
Council voted on Wednesday to make Wentworth Street a two-way street, so traffic will soon flow both ways from Delaware to Barton Street. There will also be community consultation around converting Sanford Avenue.
And while that decision generated little opposition – council had already approved part of the conversion – it sparked a debate over changing too much about lower-city streets.
Wentworth Avenue is a major thoroughfare, not just a local road, Whitehead said.
"Be careful when you mess with arterial roads because it impacts all of us, not just your neighbourhood," he said.
Two-way street conversations already approved
- Bold Street from James Street South to Queen Street South.
- Duke Street from James Street South to Queen Street South.
- Hughson Street North from Wilson Street to Barton Street East.
- King William Street from John Street North to Wellington Street North.
- Victoria Avenue North from Barton Street East to Burlington Street East.
- Wentworth Street North from Delaware Avenue to Barton Street East.
- Caroline Street North from King Street to York Boulevard.
- Hess Street North from York Boulevard to Barton Street West.
Bicycle lanes already approved
- Hunter Street.
- York Boulevard.
- Cannon Street.
- Charlton Avenue.
- Herkimer Avenue.
- Dundurn Street.
- Bay Street.