The City has made some changes to the King Street West ramp over Highway 403, but the fundamental issues remain unresolved.
By Martin Zarate
Published December 21, 2015
In 2013 I wrote about the King Street West/Highway 403 ramp crossing. This on-ramp breaks an essential pedestrian and cyclist connection between Westdale/Ainslie Wood and the rest of Lower City Hamilton. Traffic is fast, the crossing is uncontrolled, and drivers are prone to last-second lane-changes into the ramp, making it difficult for pedestrians to know when it is safe to cross.
In December of 2014, just over a year ago, April Severin contacted the MTO to discuss the problems with the crossing.
Since then, the city has made some safety-minded changes to the ramp, but they don't really seem to solve the fundamental problems. I'll get into these later, I mostly want to get to the meat of this topic:
The MTO and the City both replied to Ms. Severin saying they were working with their respective counterparts to make this ramp safer.
Specifically, a representative from the City of Hamilton - David Ferguson, Superintendent of Traffic Engineering - responded with this:
Good Morning Folks,
We are currently in negotiations with the MTO in finalizing designs for several locations to create pedestrian crossing at these types of locations throughout the city. [emphasis added]
We are also expecting the approval of changes to the HTA in 2015 that would see changes that provide a right of way to pedestrians over vehicles.
We are currently working with PWs communications staff on how we can educate all road users of these new legal changes and will be part of our Traffic Safety work program in 2015.
Noticing it had been over a year since that reply, I contacted Ward 1 Councillor Aidan Johnson to see how these negotiations had turned out, if anything had come of them.
Councillor Johnson forwared my concerns on to city staff, as well as Hamilton Centre MPP and Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath's office.
The following was received from David Ferguson, Superintendent of Traffic Engineering:
Approvals for any changes at locations such as this, are the responsibility of the MTO. As mentioned in my email, the City and MTO have been in discussions on several locations with respect to pedestrian features, however the majority of these require the proposed changes to the Highway Traffic Act to permit the implementation of Pedestrian Crossovers as identified in the Ontario Traffic Manual, Book 15.
In looking at this specific location, based on volumes, speeds, etc, I would have some concerns with implementing a Pedestrian Crossover, however we will continue to have discussions with the MTO.
The other thing we will need to think of and consider, is the future LRT design for the area and maybe possible opportunities to improve pedestrian and cycling connectivity through this area.
My response was as follows:
Thanks everyone for your speedy replies.
Am I right in understanding that, because of the MTO and the LRT planning, it won't be possible to do any more than has already been done for this crossing (I've noticed the new solid lane-marking and the denser knockdown-sticks) for several years? Would it be at all possible to improve something if Ward 1 made it a participatory budgeting priority? The crossing may not look worth the cost by the numbers, but the in-person experience is somewhat worse for a variety of reasons.
Thanks for your time,
And Mr. Ferguson reiterated:
Approvals must follow the appropriate process with higher jurisdictions. The location has been identified to the MTO and we will continue to communicate with the MTO on this issue.
I am not optimistic.
As mentioned above, the city has made some improvements to the ramp over the past year:
However, the new turning lane seems to only confuse some drivers, who don't realize that the lane with a solid line and hatch-looking arrows is actually the exit lane until the last possible second, making the matter worse.
And the speed limit mostly allows the police to use the bridge as a speed-trap, since the bridge still feels like an expressway. I've driven across it many times and I constantly have to remind myself to drive slower.
Fundamentally, the improvements do not seem to solve the problems outlined in previous articles. The traffic is still fast going toward the unprotected crossing, cylcists and wheeled pedestrians are still only protected by knockdown sticks, and drivers are still prone to last-second lane-changes making it difficult to determine when it is safe to cross.
I'm generally a pessimist about municipal matters, but I've been wrong before. I didn't think Hamilton Bike Share was going to work out, and it has. So hopefully, I'm wrong here - but I don't think we're going to see a proper solution for this crossing for a very long time.
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