Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 23, 1998
People first in downtown
There is no silver bullet to solve the problems plaguing downtown Hamilton. Revitalizing the city core depends on a host of small solutions, including solving the problem of traffic arteries that serve as one-way mini-expressways to speed commuters through the heart of the city. A new study outlining ways to convert one-way streets to two-way is a welcome starting point in creating a downtown that serves pedestrians and businesses first, rather than cars and trucks.
Two-way streets are a bold, controversial concept in a city that has successfully employed a one-way road system in the absence of a major cross-town expressway below the escarpment. But the idea shouldn’t automatically be dismissed as impractical. The community should keep an open mind about radical methods of transforming the downtown core.
Research on the merits and drawbacks of two-way streets is a prerequisite. Many other steps are needed — such as cheaper and more convenient parking, wider sidewalks and more commercial and residential development — regardless of whether two-way streets become a reality. But at minimum, this new study moves downtown planning ahead with preliminary suggestions for more two-way streets.
Some key proposals include converting King and Main to two-way streets from Paradise Road to the Delta; making Cannon and Wilson two-way; and reconstructing and widening Cannon to become an extension of York Boulevard. The Cannon proposal is a substitute for the Perimeter Road, linking Burlington Street to Highway 403. Costing an estimated $250 million or more, the Perimeter Road is currently too expensive for regional taxpayers. But it would be the best route. The region should try to find funding partners for the project.
We have concerns about rebuilding Cannon Street. While cheaper than the initial phase of the Perimeter Road as far as Bay Street, the Cannon proposal would disrupt homes and businesses.
The study — and possible alternative routes — deserve more public meetings. Regional council should continue to get advice from many quarters, including the newly-formed downtown partnership. Two pilot projec ts deserve support. One proposal, converting Bay Street from Main to Cannon to two-way operation, may potentially better connect the rejuvenated bayfront with downtown. A second idea, reducing the number of lanes on King Street, from James to Bay, would allow experiments in parking and more space for pedestrians.
Leadership is needed to find ways of reconciling a vibrant downtown with the traditional mobility that Hamiltonians have enjoyed. A green light for the pilot projects will allow everyone to see where two-way streets fit into a healthier, prosperous downtown. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial, A8, 7/23/1998)