$26 million two-way conversion of Main Street in Hamilton hits Public Works agenda

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Published December 4, 2023 at 8:59 pm

Main Street Hamilton
Main Street, Hamilton

Councillors and the public got another look on Monday at Hamilton’s plan to convert Main Street to a two-way street, a project that will cost taxpayers more than $26 million and be phased in over two to three years.

Funding of $1 million for a detailed engineering design on the conversion was green-lit at the City’s Public Works Committee meeting Monday afternoon, to be approved through the 2024 annual capital budget process.

The genesis of the conversion arose from some stark statistics on public safety in the downtown core, with 2,065 collisions reported on the Main Street corridor (between Dundurn St. S and Main St. E/King St. E) between 2017 and 2022, with 73 per cent of those accidents occurring at intersections. Pedestrians were involved in 84 of those accidents and cyclists another 37.

The latter numbers “matter a lot,” said Mike Field, the City’s Manager of Transportation Operations, pointing out that collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists almost always result in injuries.

“Pedestrians and cyclists have high injury rates when involved in collisions,” he said, adding that all collisions on Main Street come at a “high societal cost.”

The accidents also cause tens of millions of dollars in damages.

The $26,492,000 project – including $10 million for road rehabilitation and $8.425 million for traffic signal reconstruction – could begin in 2026 if it is approved at budget time, with completion by 2028. The funds would be split in the 2026-2028 budget years.

Detailed design is expected to take 24-30 months.

The report also includes a high-level review of all other one-way arterial and collector streets in Hamilton.

The intersection of Main Street and John Street had the highest frequency of fatal and injury-related collisions in the city, followed by Main Street at Wellington Street. Sideswipe collisions on Main Street were significantly more prevalent compared to the city average, with a higher severity rate, “partly attributed to the historical one-way configuration of Main Street.”

Council sent staff to report on how the conversion could be implemented in May of 2022, as well as the conversion of other one-way streets to two-way operations. Immediate safety measures were also introduced last year, including lane reductions, traffic barriers, parking changes, pedestrian crossing enhancements, right-turn-on-red restrictions, signal timing changes, pedestrian count down timers, leading pedestrian interval signals, and selected painted transit lanes.

These measures, committee members were told Monday, led to a “notable reduction” in collisions on Main Street and King Street by about 42 per cent.

“It does appear that those changes have had a positive impact,” noted Field.

WSP Canada was also hired to look at the conversion of Main Street to two-way, with their study focused on finding the most effective method for conversion, “rather than questioning its necessity. “

(The study excluded a segment of Main St. W., which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation, with Hwy 403 exit ramp reconfigurations ongoing. This segment of Main Street would be completed as a future second phase in coordination with Light Rail Transit works, as necessary.)

Three design alternatives were evaluated based on safety, traffic flow, pedestrian-friendliness, cyclist network, social equity, transit, parking, and cost, with option three – Asymmetric Lane Capacity – selected as the preferred solution.

Asymmetric Lane Capacity entails one westbound vehicular lane and two to three eastbound vehicular lanes; with the specific number varying along the corridor. The option provides:

  • Additional east-bound capacity
  • Better safety and conflict mitigation opportunities
  • Better pedestrian environment
  • The incorporation of cycling facilities Victoria to Sherman (short term) and Dundurn to Sherman (longer term post light rail transit construction)
  • Improved opportunities for social health and equity
  • Space to incorporate street trees and green infrastructure

The city hosted several public meetings in May and invited public comment on its website, with the feedback emphasizing pedestrian and cyclist prioritization, cycling infrastructure, reduced side street access, and traffic congestion concerns.

The level of public engagement was greater than typical City projects, with 362 public meeting attendees, 149 e-mails and 500 comments on the website.

Several public delegations spoke at Monday’s committee as well.

Committee was told Monday a phased-in approach was the only way to go because the complexity of the project makes it “challenging” to execute construction within a single construction season.

The goal of the conversion, Field said, is to improve public safety and “enhance the experience” for all road users on Main Street.

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