City will study expanding Red Hill and Linc to 6 lanes
Doug Conley says the city should also try to get money federal Liberals promised during election
City councillors have voted to ask the provincial and federal governments for money to widen the Linc and Red Hill Valley Parkways — although some say the request will put the highways ahead of housing, bridges and other Hamilton infrastructure needs.
The city's public works committee voted 5-2 on Monday to look into expanding the highways from four to six lanes. If that's feasible, the city will ask the province and feds for help doing it.
The city is already looking at whether the highway should be widened as part of its transportation master plan.
But Doug Conley, Ward 9 councillor for Stoney Creek, prompted the vote anyway, saying the congestion is so bad that it needs to be made more of a priority.
Let's try to get something that people can actually see for their taxes.- Doug Conley, Ward 9 councillor
The federal Liberals promised $60 billion in infrastructure spending during the election, he said. Some of that should be spent on widening the highway.
"Why can't we go after it?" he said. "If we don't get it, we don't get it."
Chad Collins, a Ward 5 councillor, said there isn't even an application process in place for the money yet. This move sends the message that widening highways is the top priority, he said. And with the lack of affordable housing, for example, maybe it's not.
"I'm just concerned that this is the project that we're choosing, and I'm not certain at this point that it's warranted," he said.
Conley countered that most infrastructure money is spend on "under the ground piping" that people can't see.
"Let's try to get something that people can actually see for their taxes."
Our front burner is stacked.- Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor
Most other committee members — many of them Mountain councillors — backed Conley's request.
"Most days when I drive to city hall, it's four lanes of parking lot as far as the eye can see," said Coun. Terry Whitehead of the Linc.
Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, sided with Collins. The highways should have been six lanes to begin with, and "some who are still on council" voted against that. The highway has been crowded, he said, but council has kept approving residential development along the corridor anyway. So "we brought this on ourselves."
Widening the road, he said, should be "on the back burner. Our front burner is stacked."
Widening the highways would cost at least $50 to $80 million, staff say. The city still has $59 million in outstanding debt to build the highway. The final payment will be in December 2025.
Council will vote to ratify the decision on Nov. 11.
Who voted to ask the province for money to expand the highways if the project is feasible:
Doug Conley (Ward 9), Tom Jackson (6), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Terry Whitehead (10), Robert Pasuta (14)
Who voted against it:
Sam Merulla (4), Chad Collins (5)