partial LRT model

Cathie Coward,The Hamilton Spectator
A partial model of an LRT vehicle was on display during Supercrawl on James St. N.

Don’t be surprised if LRT planning resurrects the debate over two-way traffic on Hamilton’s major downtown arteries.

Consultant Steer Gleave Davies is about to begin updating the city’s LRT project environmental assessment to account for planned changes, like a new James Street spur to the GO station and a new eastern terminus at the Queenston traffic circle.

That effort will include new modelling of how vehicle traffic will be affected and rerouted in the LRT corridors — during and after an anticipated five-year construction period.

Five years ago, a Metrolinx benefits analysis gave Hamilton’s light rail plan a thumbs-up — but also noted the transit plan would work far better with Main and King streets converted to two-way traffic.

That does not mean two-way traffic on Main is inevitable, stressed city manager Chris Murray, but added “you can’t rule it out.”

“Building that (LRT) track and feeding that track is going to displace automobiles and trucks that have to go somewhere,” he said after the city’s first LRT advisory committee meeting Wednesday. “Whether it makes sense to be two-way or not is part of what the modelling exercise will help us understand.”

The LRT plan, so far, is to close a narrow downtown section of King to vehicle traffic to ensure railcars on tight schedules aren’t caught in jams. Another core section of the eastbound, one-way artery would be reversed to allow easier westbound car access to businesses along the route.

The oft-debated idea of converting Hamilton’s historic one-way streets is always contentious — especially when it comes to Main and King, which are fast-moving, multi-lane arteries.

Some downtown residents have advocated, loudly, to convert — and slow — the wide one-way streets, arguing the move would make the core safer, more walkable and attractive to visitors.

Commuters resist the notion, however, and suburban and Mountain councillors have called Main and King important car transportation corridors for all residents.

The city is also undergoing a transportation master plan update that is expected to take a comprehensive look at one-way and two-way conversions throughout the city.

The consultant’s modelling study will provide valuable information for that study, Murray said — but ultimately, any changes will be up to council.

Source: The Hamilton Spectator