The Red Hill Valley Parkway hasn't made traffic better
City numbers show in the long term, the new highway has done little to reduce traffic on nearby roads
Fred Pizzoferrato has lived in the same house on Centennial Parkway North since 1950, and he has more traffic stories than most.
Vehicles have collided and rolled onto his lawn. Once, his elderly mother was sitting by the front window and saw a transport truck tire wheel roll past, part of the axle still attached.
A few years ago, he and wife Joanne were pulling into their driveway, turn signal on, and an impatient driver rear-ended them. When passing trucks hit potholes, he said, it shakes the house's foundation.
The Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP) was supposed to ease some of this. But nine years later, Pizzoferrato said, Centennial is as busy as ever.
"When the Red Hill was built, it relieved some of the pressure," he said. "But it didn't last long."
Numbers show that's true. According to city traffic counts, single-day traffic at Barton and Centennial was 29,007 vehicles in 2002. That was five years before the RHVP opened. In June 2008, seven months after the new highway, there were 24,628 vehicles. In 2013, it was back up to 30,651.
Council wasn't listening to those arguments. They had made up their mind.- Don McLean, environmental activist
Other areas aren't quite at pre-RHVP levels, but they're getting there. At Mud Street, for example, there were 37,695 vehicles on a day in 2006, and 19,473 in 2008, post-RHVP. In 2013, the count was 30,345.
Numbers on the highway itself show an even steeper increase. In October 2008, there were 45,749 vehicles compared to 59,833 in October 2010, only two years later. The city's most recent data is May 2014, when there were 58,444.
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These numbers don't surprise Don McLean, a Stoney Creek environmental activist who fought the highway project for years. He predicted it would only cause induced demand — the concept that the more roads you build, the more traffic it causes.
'They had made up their mind'
"We weren't the only ones saying that," he said. "All the science says that too. But in Hamilton at that time, council wasn't listening to those arguments. They had made up their mind."
Regardless of what people say, we are a car-centric society.- David Ferguson, superintendent of traffic engineering
The concept of induced demand includes increased development around new roads and widened highways, which is what has happened with Red Hill, McLean said.
When thousands of commuters move to Binbrook and upper Stoney Creek, he said, they're doing that because the RHVP makes it easy to get places. They fill the roads, the city builds more roads and the cycle keeps perpetuating.
David Ferguson, the city's superintendent of traffic engineering, said the numbers are a more complicated story. These are one-day counts, so a unique event or construction could have swayed the numbers.
But traffic is trending upward, Ferguson said. And it's mostly because of development around the highway. Traffic, as they say, is like water. It takes the path of least resistance.
More people, more jobs, more traffic
"When the city developed and constructed the Red Hill, you had that decline," he said. "But you've increased the population of certain areas. And regardless of what people say, we are a car-centric society."
The purpose of the RHVP was to take the load off Centennial. (But) the load just keeps getting bigger and bigger.- Doug Conley, Ward 9 councillor
Easing traffic on roads such as Centennial wasn't the only reason for the RHVP. It was also meant to spur development and economic growth, and according to the city, it's done that.
In 2011, for example, 18 businesses that have set up shop along the RHVP brought in $14,252,714 in taxes and $386 worth of assessment. That includes Fortino's headquarters, Canada Bread, Maple Leaf Foods and businesses in the Heritage Green Plaza.
But increasingly, RHVP congestion is an issue. Doug Conley, Ward 9 councillor, moved to look at widening it, an idea that was deferred to the transportation master plan later this year.
Conley said he's just looking for options. He realized while visiting Pizzoferrato how bad the truck traffic had gotten on Centennial.
'We know what's going on'
"The purpose of the RHVP was to take the load off Centennial," he said. But "the load just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I just think because of all the construction going on here, it just produces more traffic, that's all."
City council also discussed, but rejected, tolling out-of-town trucks on the RHVP. Conley argued that would just push more trucks onto Centennial.
Pizzoferrato said the trucks on Centennial are heading to a residential area. He doesn't know why they're even there. But they're rumbling past his house in increasing numbers.
For his part, the 76-year-old likes to take transit. He hops on the B line to go downtown, which he says is faster than driving. He installed thicker windows to block the sound of traffic. In the 1980s, he even built an addition in the back to get rid of the noise.
"They should come and talk to us," he said. "We know what's going on."
Red Hill Valley Parkway traffic numbers
- Nov. 17, 2007: Highway opens
- Oct. 20 to 26, 2008: 45,749
- Oct. 19 to 26, 2009: 55,833
- Oct. 18 to 25, 2010: 59,123
- May 1 to 8, 2011: 55,406
- May 20 to 26, 2012: 57,812
- May 21 to 27, 2014: 58,444
Two-way average daily Traffic for the RHVP ranges between 55,000 and 60,000 vehicles.
Source: City of Hamilton