Hamilton looking to upload responsibility of the Red Hill Pkwy and the ‘Linc’ to the Province

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Published December 15, 2023 at 10:08 am

Hamilton Council has set the wheels in motion to upload the operation and maintenance of the Red Hill Parkway and Lincoln Alexander Parkway to the Province and will initiate discussions with Ministry of Transport officials in the new year.

The idea of passing responsibility of the two controversial highways, which serve as a southern by-pass between Highway 403 and the QEW, to the Province has been around for a while. Rising municipal deficits and the deal struck November 27 between Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow to hand over oversight of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway (in exchange for staying out of the Ontario Place re-development) has given the issue a sense of “urgency,” said Hamilton Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson.

“This is not a new story but it is a story that is of great urgency,” Wilson said at Wednesday’s Council meeting in introducing the motion. “The financial burden on this municipality … is not sustainable.”

Both highways have been financial headaches for Hamilton since the days they opened. Annual operating costs for the two roads is estimated at $775,000 – not a small thing to cash-strapped and debt-ridden Hamilton – and re-paving work four years ago on the Red Hill Parkway cost taxpayers $12.5 million.

Wilson, with support from Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath, who has been championing this cause almost since she was first elected, said discussions with provincial ministers and staff needs to begin immediately.

“Cities are the economic engines of the nation and of the province,” Wilson noted. “We have been calling for a more sustainable framework for municipalities for some time.”

Ford and Chow both called the Toronto agreement, which would essentially award the city $1.2 billion over the next three years to pay for much-needed new infrastructure, “historic” during a joint news conference last month.

Hamilton’s budget issues are not as pronounced as Canada’s largest city, but they are an ongoing problem, as is the city’s crumbling infrastructure, especially now as Council prepares for budget talks.

“We have to start pressing the agenda of uploading to the Province and to talk about disentanglement … and to talk about the consequences that are facing our cities of this untenable and unsustainable financial arrangement.”

Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson

Wilson couldn’t resist taking s little shot at the Premier, noting that having these discussions with his government “like grown-ups” and in a thoughtful manner might be a “bridge too far,” she said.

“If this is the ‘git ‘er done’ government, let’s start with where their interests lie and that is roads.”

The eight-kilometre Red Hill Parkway has also been rife with controversy since it opened in 2007 and is the subject of a scathing report released by Superior court Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel November 29 that detailed buried safety reports and a litany of construction problems, including lack of visibility, poor lighting and a perceived slipperiness that contributed to six fatal accidents in the highway’s first decade.

The inquiry, which took four years to complete, will cost taxpayers some $28 million and included recommendations for safety improvements that are expected to cost the City millions more.

The seven-kilometre Linc, as it is known by locals, opened ten years before the Red Hill (though planning began in 1963), with construction on that road also a contentious issue, with the project finally completed against staunch opposition in 1997.

That same year the Province began a two-year program of downloading responsibility of nearly 5,000 kilometres of former provincial roads and highways to local municipalities.

Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko said these roads are now a “big part of the deficit.”

“They’re referred to as ‘assets.’ They’re not assets. They are liabilities.”

Construction costs for the two highways totalled about $440 million, not counting the cost to the City of several lawsuits related to the Red Hill Parkway, including two between Hamilton and the Province and one between Hamilton and the federal government.

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