Tuesday, November 18, 2008

bridge over troubled committee

CATCH News – November 17, 2008

Pedestrian bridges decision delayed

A decision on pedestrian bridges in the Kirkendall neighbourhood was delayed today at the request of the ward councillor. Staff are recommending replacing one of three footbridges across the CN rail line south of Main Street, between Queen and Dundurn, after discovering it is used by over one thousand pedestrians a week.

At issue are north-south crossings of the railway at Ray, Poulette and Pearl Streets. Only the Pearl Street crossing currently exists. The Ray one was demolished last year, and the Poulette bridge was removed in the mid-1980s.

Both are located between Queen and Locke while the Pearl Street bridge is midway between Locke and Dundurn. A 2006 city study recommended repairing or replacing the Pearl bridge and reinstalling the one at Poulette, but a consultant study released earlier this year argued that none of the bridges were required.

Public outcry as well as opposition from west end councillor Brian McHattie forced a re-evaluation. The revised report that went to the public works committee today recommends replacing the deteriorating Pearl Street crossing in 2012.

After encountering “significant public sentiment in favour of retaining/replacing the pedestrian crossings”, the report says, staff did a count of bridge users and realized it was being used extensively.

“A new pedestrian bridge at Pearl Street was recommended based on existing pedestrian usage obtained through pedestrian counts (229 people over a 10.5 hour early spring weekday count and 166 people over a 6 hour early spring weekend count)”, they report. On the weekday count eleven percent of the users were under 12 years of age.

No count could be conducted for the Poulette structure because it no longer exists, but staff are arguing that it isn’t needed because major walking destinations can be accessed in other ways, and “the Poulette Street corridor is discontinuous in terms of serving major desire lines” in Kirkendall and the adjacent Strathcona neighbourhoods.

“The cost of a new pedestrian crossing at Poulette Street ($450,000-$500,000 capital cost plus long term maintenance costs) also cannot be justified based on the marginal benefits that it would provide,” argues the report. The spring consultant study estimated the price tag at $250,000.

McHattie succeeded today in having a decision put off until the December 1 meeting of the committee. On his website, the councillor says he’s “working on a multi-stakeholder plan” to re-install the Poulette bridge.

“I feel strongly that we need to have as many attractive pedestrian routes as possible to encourage folks to leave their cars at home,” McHattie contends, “with the clear benefit of more fit populations, reductions in greenhouse gases and air pollution, and the promotion of a slower pace of life obtainable when one walks.”

He’s backed by neighbourhood groups and at least two city-wide environmental organizations, Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) and Environment Hamilton, who held a “bridge party” in September to urge more pedestrian facilities in Kirkendall.

In a May submission to the city, TLC noted that the city’s master transportation plan has the stated aim of increasing walking and that the recently rebuilt automobile bridge on Dundurn was ten times the price of each new pedestrian-only facility.

“The Kirkendall neighbourhood is one of lower Hamilton’s great assets, boasting short, walkable streets, architectural diversity and a railway which did not, until recently, divide the neighbourhood, but rather added its own character,” said the TLC submission.

Environment Hamilton also called for more pedestrian facilities and criticized the consultant study for wrongly assuming that 6 kilometres an hour is an average walking speed.

Hamilton has been talking about reducing car dependency since the early 1990s,” noted the group’s April letter, “but when the rubber meets the road it always seems to turn out that the ‘commitment’ goes no further than talk.”

Since then, Environment Hamilton has launched the “Kirkendall Walks” project with funding from Environment Canada to encourage reduction in short distance vehicle trips in favour of walking and cycling.

The Kirkendall Neighbourhood Committee is introducing it’s new “Pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood committee” at a public meeting on Wednesday evening in Stanley Avenue Baptist Church starting at 7:30 pm. The objective is “finding ways to improve the walkable (and perhaps bicyclable) character of the neighbourhood.”

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at www.hamiltoncatch.org. You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to info@HamiltonCATCH.org.

Photo of Pearl Street Bridge, September 2008 (Bridge Party, Car Free Week in hamilton)

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