Monday, January 20, 2003

C'mon! Cootes Needs Changes!

January 20, 2004
Ms. Christine Lee-Morison,
Capital Planning
City of Hamilton
FAX 905-546-4435

Re: A major concern about part of the proposed Ainslie Wood / Westdale neighbourhoods transportation master plan.

We are writing on behalf of "Transportation for Liveable Communities" (TLC), a working group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at McMaster University.

TLC members found several well thought proposals for improving alternative transportation corridors, discussed on page 61 of the class EA for the proposed Ainslie Wood / Westdale neighbourhoods transportation master plan. However, we consider as unacceptable the proposed changes to the bicycle and pedestrian crossing at Cootes Drive and Sanders Boulevard (hereafter Cootes crossing). We think that the proposed Cootes crossing fails to address major negative environmental impacts at one of the most environmentally sensitive marshlands in our region, Cootes Paradise.

Whereas we hope that we can negotiate a resolution to our substantial concerns, we will have to involve the Ministry of Environment if you do not promptly outline a timely resolution process. Please note that we do not seek explanations but a suitable resolution procedure resulting in a safe Cootes crossing.


The class EA correctly identifies Cootes crossing as a safety hazard on page 34. However, on the same page and on successive pages, the document depicts gross misunderstanding of pedestrian and cyclist needs. This failure must be corrected in order to prevent negative environmental consequences.

1. Improper description of Cootes crossing

Cootes crossing is one of the busiest junctions of alternative transportation corridors in west Hamilton and is well used by cyclists, pedestrians and runners for commuting and recreation. Cootes crossing appears on the official Hamilton Bike map as part of a signed bike route and is indeed well signed. At this crossing, cyclists, runners and pedestrians from Ancaster and Dundas converge on their way to McMaster University, Westdale and downtown Hamilton.

Unfortunately, however, the class EA wrongly refers to both Sanders Boulevard and the alternative transportation trail next to Cootes Drive as ending at Cootes crossing. Furthermore, we feel that the reference to "pedestrian infiltration" (line 17, page 34 of the class EA) is offending.

In short, the class EA fails to depict the importance of Cootes crossing, its current formal designation and, most importantly, the future positive environmental potential of a safe alternative transportation crossing in that location.

2. Failure to consider and to properly evaluate all reasonable and feasible alternatives

The class EA (page 34) correctly identifies Cootes crossing as a "safety hazard". It proceeds to consider the four alternatives of do nothing, close access, improve access and build overpass. Although improved access is the preferred alternative, neither the proposed improvements nor the evaluation criteria are appropriate.

First, given the importance of Cootes crossing and the necessity of generating a massive increase in alternative transportation users in this area, the city must provide a safe passage to alternative transportation users. Hence the critical question must be "is the preferred alternative safe?" The obvious answer, however, is no!

We believe that the only alternative that can allow for a safe Cootes crossing is a traffic signal. Disappointedly, this option was not considered.

3. Deficiency of the preferred alternative

The current official speed limit along much of Cootes Drive is 80 Km/h. A sign of 60 Km/h is posted approximately 100 m north of Cootes crossing. In reality, automobiles approaching Cootes crossing from either north or south currently travel at speeds exceeding 80 Km/h. Changing the 60 Km/h sign to 50 Km/h, which is the most substantial proposed "safety improvement" for Cootes crossing, will not make that crossing safe.

We are puzzled about the logic for, and cost effectiveness of, the proposed changes in curvature of the right lane approach from Main St. into Cootes Drive (see Figures on page 37). Either the current exit or the proposed reduced-curvature exit effectively serve as acceleration lanes by drivers heading north into the four-lane, divided highway of Cootes Drive, just a few hundred meter from the official 80 Km/h speed limit sign.

Finally, the proposed line markings are insufficient and unrealistic (see Figure on page 37). The Figure suggests a 1.5 m wide pedestrian crossing where dozens of pedestrians cross at the same time during peak commuting.

Our proposal

Research and professional polls have unambiguously indicated that a large number of people are prepared to switch to alternative modes of transportation if a safe route is provided between their community and work place. A safe Cootes crossing can make commuting in west Hamilton much more appealing. Thus a safe Cootes Crossing will help McMaster University and the City of Hamilton achieve their formally stated goal of generating a dramatic increase in the use of alternative modes of transportation.

We think that the only alternative that can allow for a safe Cootes crossing is a pedestrian/cyclist activated traffic signal and physical traffic-calming measures to slow traffic (ex. raised table). We realize that a traffic light may cause minimal delay to vehicles. However, the environmental cost of a massive increase in automobile traffic and parking next to Cootes Paradise are much higher.

Sincerely yours,

For the members of Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC)
CC Mr. Brian McHattie, City of Hamilton