No rush for Ancaster road repairs, says residents’ coalition
The city is eager to move ahead with road improvements in Ancaster’s historic core, but a group of residents is pleading for more time to review the changes the city has proposed.
According to Mark Cosens, spokesperson for the Preserve Ancaster Village Coalition, the city’s plan is marred by “inadequate public feedback, a lack of transparency and numerous inconsistencies with existing research and planning documents.”
The $37.6 million plan calls for a full facelift of Wilson Street East, complete with new sidewalks, bike lanes and a third left-hand turn lane in some areas.
The extensive list of revisions also includes plans to widen Rousseaux Street as well as Stone Church, Garner, Mohawk and Golf Links roads. The city has also proposed a roundabout at the intersection of Wilson and Jerseyville Road, and reconstruction of the intersection at Wilson and Rousseaux.
According to city officials, the changes will improve traffic flow through the village core and alleviate rush-hour congestion caused by drivers crossing town to get to the westbound 403. It will also help traffic move more smoothly at the corner of Rousseaux and Wilson, which councillor Lloyd Ferguson said city staff consider the “worst intersection in the City of Hamilton.”
“Wilson Street is in deplorable shape and it needs capital improvements,” Ferguson said in a recent interview. “But we can’t get the capital dollars needed to go forward with those repairs until we have the transportation master plan.”
Ferguson said the funding for the plan was approved four years ago in the capital budget and the city has completed its report on the proposed changes. That report is out for public consultation until Jan. 31, leaving local residents three weeks to respond to the proposal before the city can move forward.
For Cosens, that’s just not enough time to carefully evaluate the plan and come up with feasible alternatives — especially since the report wasn’t made available to the public before Dec. 8.
At a meeting of the Ancaster Heritage Village BIA Jan. 17, his six-person group announced it was asking city council for an additional three months for Ancaster residents and business owners to review and respond to the plans.
“People who have studied the issue up until now have had years to do it,” Cosens said in a recent interview. “It feels like all of a sudden there’s a mad rush to make a decision that’s going to have a significant impact on our community. I don’t feel we’ve had anywhere near adequate time to be consulted.”
However, Ferguson said a majority of BIA members disagree with the need to extend the public consultation period. The Ancaster branch of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce has also sided firmly with the city on the issue.
BIA chair Bob Wilkins said he wasn’t prepared to make a statement on the BIA’s position at this time.
Cosens’ group has taken issue with several aspects of the plan, and said the proposal clashes with the needs of those who call the quaint village home.
For instance, he said the proposed roundabout will likely confuse drivers and speed up traffic along the historic Wilson Street strip. This, he suspects, will make it even tougher for people to get across the street – a street which he said already has too few traffic lights and pedestrians crossings.
He also said the plan fails to adequately address the issue of westbound access to the Highway 403. There is no direct westbound access to the highway between Wilson Street, at the west end of the village, and Aberdeen Avenue.
“The sum of it is that it will be harmful, not helpful,” Cosens said. “There’s a lot more work that needs to be done.”
“This is the one part of Ancaster that remains largely as it has always been and we should do our best to preserve it,” he added. “Everything else has, for one reason or another, been developed to our detriment.”
Ferguson, however, had a different view.
He said the changes won’t affect the character of the village and, more importantly, they’re practical.
“There’s still a large contingent of people who have to get home every night from work and get the kids out to soccer and gymnastics and hockey,” he said. “That’s the balance we’ve got to reach with this thing.”
Ferguson also disputed Cosens’ claim about access to the westbound 403. He said the city is actively consulting with the ministry about the creation of an additional on-ramp at Golf Links Road.
Moreover, he said it’s misleading to portray the project as a burden to taxpayers, since less than a third of the nearly $38 million price tag will come from the city’s coffers. The rest of the project is developer-funded, Ferguson said.
The city is willing to listen to the coalition’s concerns with respect to traffic calming and the need for additional pedestrian crossings on Wilson Street, he added.
The coalition is hosting a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the St. John’s Parish Hall in Ancaster at 7 p.m. More information can be found on the group’s website at: preserveancastervillage.com/http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/477477--no-rush-for-ancaster-road-repairs-says-residents-coalition