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Fix Aberdeen Avenue safety issues before LRT, says councillor

This is the first time a city councillor has asked to make his road safer to prepare for LRT traffic. But it won't be the last.

Concern is a sign of coming disruption from LRT construction

Aberdeen Avenue is unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians, and the city should fix that before LRT construction, says Coun. Aidan Johnson. (Google Maps)

Aberdeen Avenue is dangerous, for cyclists and pedestrians says the area's councillor and it's important to take care of it before the city starts construction on its light-rail transit system (LRT).

The bid by Aidan Johnson, who represents Ward 1, is the first concrete sign of councillor concerns about the impact of LRT construction on neighbourhoods and secondary streets likely to see more traffic as a result of road closures.

Johnson says the city should fix the issue before LRT construction happens and diverted traffic to the street make it even more dangerous.

That was Johnson's argument at a general issues committee meeting on Wednesday, when he tried unsuccessfully to speed up the issue by debating it that day. Instead, it will come to a future meeting.

"When LRT is constructed, traffic is going to be complicated in Hamilton in all kinds of ways, and Ward 1ers are bracing themselves," said Johnson, who argued that Aberdeen should be part of the LRT talks.

"We need the conversation about…making sure Aberdeen is safe in the wake of LRT planning, rather than waiting for LRT construction to be underway."

The LRT line will run along King Street from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, with a planned line from James Street North to the waterfront.

The $1-billion project will come with a long, painful construction process scheduled to go from 2019 to 2024. During that time, traffic will be diverted from King Street, although bureaucrats are a long way from working out the specifics.

Johnson wants Aberdeen to go on a road diet, with vehicle lanes reduced and more space for cyclists and pedestrians. The Kirkendall Neighbourhood Association working group agrees, he said. And the discussion should happen at the same time as LRT planning, not after it.

In rejecting Johnson's motion, some councillors argued that it wasn't time sensitive.

Coun. Terry Whitehead of Ward 8 said city transportation staff is busy enough planning for LRT. It's also in the middle of a transportation master plan, due in 2016, and that's where the Aberdeen issue belongs.

"Seventeen thousand vehicles are going to have to be rerouted as a result of the LRT," he said. "To now pile up something on their backs before they even have that done is unreasonable."

Gerry Davis, general manager of public works, also said that LRT construction is staff's priority.

Councillors voted down talking about Aberdeen with a 6-6 tie vote. It will come to a general issues committee meeting on Dec. 2.

samantha.craggs@cbc.ca | @SamCraggsCBC

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