Every square foot of unnecessary lane capacity costs us a huge amount to install, maintain, plough, and replace. We simply can't afford to waste money on unnecessary infrastructure.
By Sean Burak
Published March 28, 2013
RTH recently published a couple of blog posts about lower city Hamilton's overbuilt street system: King Street at Hess and Main Street at Bay, where lane closures have not created anything like gridlock.
But examples of the proof of Hamilton's overbuilt lanes abound across the lower city. Here are some that come to mind, and I hope you will post more examples in the comments.
It has been down to one lane in each direction for at least seven months now, with no detrimental effect. Meanwhile, they are working on rebuilding that overpass.
Here's an idea - downgrade it and get rid of that unnecessary infrastructure cost. We need to minimize the number of bridges to maintain.
While we're at it, King Street East could be one lane in each direction with a centre turning lane and bike lanes - or at least wide enough lanes to accommodate bikes. This would make it more pleasant for residents and make it easier to turn in and out of driveways.
This was down to two lanes for months, and sometimes down to one lane - with minimal effect on traffic. Why did we pay to repave the full width and assume the ongoing costs of mainenance for lanes we don't need?
When we talk about two-way conversions or bike lanes on King, we are told that we can't do anything until LRT moves forward - but somehow it's ok to spend hundreds of thousands on repaving of the very same stretch?
This is perhaps the most overbuilt road in the city. Go down to Stinson and Victoria, look up and get a load of that infrastructure. It is an enormous overpass - something that puts LA's car culture to shame. It's seven lanes at its widest point, compared to Highway 403's four lanes.
We've been down a lane due to a failing escarpment retaining wall for over a year, and we could stand to lose three or four more with no impact to traffic.
Construction by Hamilton General Hospital had Victoria Avenue North down to two lanes from its usual four (all one-way, of course), and the backup was rarely more than one or two light cycles.
King Street just west of Hess Street has been down a lane for years now, and commuting life goes on with one light cycle delay at the worst of times.
King Street West at Ray Street was down by one lane for the duration of the construction of the Good Shepherd Centre with zero traffic impact. Even when the Hess and Ray closures were happening at the same time, the delay was minimal.
Main West West between Caroline and Bay has been reduced by one lane for over a year during the renovation of the old Revenue Canada building and the construction of the new Vranich tower at Bay and George - with no impact on traffic.
Then we have the Hamilton-specific concept of "magically appearing traffic", where streets widen at random locations where there is no source of additional traffic to justify the widening.
York Blvd goes from one lane at the Royal Botanical Gardens, to two lanes at Highway 403, to three lanes at Dundurn. Are we to assume that people turn right from Dundurn onto York at such volumes that they need a dedicated lane?
Main Street goes from two lanes west of McMaster to three lanes at Mac, to four lanes at Paradise, and to five lanes at Highway 403.
King Street heading westbound goes from two lanes at John, three lanes at James, to four lanes at Bay, to five lanes at Locke.
I can only assume the widening at Bay is to accommodate staff leaving City Hall so they can get the hell out of the city and back to their houses in Brantford as fast as is humanly possible.
But what about the bulge at Locke Street? Is the post-coffee-and-antique rush so heavy that a new lane needs to appear for those turning left onto King?
Every square foot of unnecessary lane capacity costs us a huge amount to install, maintain, plough, and replace. Our roads budget is out of control and a large chunk of it is being spent on unnecessary infrastructure. We can't afford this anymore.
I am sure you can all think of other examples. Please post them in the comments!
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