Vehicles attempt to navigate Dundas Street to east of Mill Street during Friday evening rush hour in Waterdown on Nov. 23. Population growth in the community has outstripped infrastructure, leading to daily traffic headaches for residents. – Mac Christie/Metroland
The proposed Waterdown east-west bypass route is shown above in yellow. – Mac Christie/Metroland
This is the second in a four-part series examining Waterdown’s local road infrastructure and how it has been impacted by the development boom.
When Carolyn Hughes and her husband moved to Waterdown 20 years ago, it used to take her four or five minutes to get into town from her home off Boulding Avenue.
Now, it takes her close to 20.
“When my husband and I bought our house — it was all farmer’s fields behind our house then — I could say, ‘I’m just going to run into town,’” she said. “Since they’ve been building up here, it’s just so horrendous, with the traffic.
In fact, despite working just west of Hamilton and Dundas street, Hughes said she avoids Dundas at almost all costs.
“I don’t go near Dundas unless I absolutely have to,” she said, “because I know if I do, I’m just going to be sitting there.”
Instead, Hughes prefers to use Parkside Drive to get west of the dreaded pinch points in the Waterdown core.
It’s for drivers like Hughes — who fight through the traffic snarl daily — that the City of Hamilton has been planning to construct a bypass.
Divided into two distinct sections — the Waterdown east-west and north-south corridors — the east-west bypass could help ease Hughes’ commute.
The new road is slated to connect from Highway 6, between Parkside Drive and 5th Concession West, before running east behind the new developments north of Parkside and connecting with a traffic light at Centre Road.
The bypass route will then continue east of Centre Road behind Alexander Place, before curving south to connect with Parkside Drive. It will then follow Parkside to the Avonsyde Boulevard, which connects to Dundas Street.
For Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge, who has been pushing to have bypass routes constructed over the course of her eight years at the council table, the east-west bypass has become her focus.
“Particularly the area between Avonsyde, Parkside, over to Centre Road and across to Highway 6,” she said. “I think that is the critical piece that is going to help move the traffic off Dundas Street.”
The bypass and traffic congestion was a contentious issue for Partridge in her reelection bid, and the third-term councillor said she is working with Mayor Fred Eisenberger to try and speed up the process.
“Really, parts of the bypass have been under construction and been planned, but they’re not moving fast enough — certainly not fast enough for me,” she said of the project, which was submitted to the province in 2005 but wasn’t approved until 2015. “We want to expedite the timelines.”
Partridge said she and Eisenberger have set up a meeting later this month with senior management to see what they can do to move the process forward.
“The bottom line is that two or three years out is not acceptable.”
Partridge admitted part of the delay is that negotiations to purchase several critical pieces of land have been problematic.
As a result, she is hesitant to set a timeline on when the east-west portion of the bypass will be complete.
“When it comes down to land negotiations, that’s a legal issue,” she said. “You can say what you hope for, but at the end of the day what we don’t want is for this to get bogged down with any legal procedures.
“We’re going to work as expeditiously as possible, within the appropriate guidelines.”
But the city does have some rough guidelines of when the project will come to fruition.
In August 2018 city council approved its transportation master plan, which lays out the $110-million blueprint for roadwork in the city over the next 10 years.
At that time, acting city manager Mike Zegarac confirmed that $18 million has been earmarked for the city-constructed portion of east-west corridor in 2021 — assuming no other road events take place.
“That $18 million is earmarked from the $110 million, but if other projects arise it will cause some crowding out and pushing out of projects,” he said in August, adding one such hurdle would be if the long-awaited Highway 5 and 6 interchange is greenlit by the Ministry of Transportation.
Sally Yong-Lee, the city’s manager of infrastructure planning, said from a planning standpoint, the east-west bypass has been broken down into three different sections.
The first section runs from Highway 6 to the new developments in north Waterdown. That first section is one of the most complex sections of the bypass route, due to approvals from the MTO to connect to Highway 6, she said.
Another issue is extensive land negotiations are required in the first stretch.
“Essentially, we don’t own any of the land,” Yong-Lee said of the first section, adding that portion of the bypass will likely be constructed by the city.
In August, Partridge expressed a similar expectation, but admitted construction on the first portion of the east-west bypass was likely five years out.
The second section, which runs behind the new developments, will be delivered by the developers of the new subdivisions north of Parkside Drive. As such, Yong-Lee said it is dependent on the builders’ timelines, adding within that section, the project is divided into three subsections.
The first two segments in that stretch run behind the LIV Communities and MC2 Homes developments, while the connection to Centre Road will be completed when Parkside Hills Phase 2 proceeds to development.
Meanwhile, the third section, which runs from Centre Road, around Alexander Place to Parkside Drive — the section the city has budgeted $18 million in 2021 to build — will be built by the city’s Public Works department.
Yong-Lee said the city still doesn’t own all the land necessary for the third section of the east-west corridor, but they have hired a consultant to do detailed design.
She said the project is probably moving more slowly than Partridge and Eisenberger would like, but stressed city staff are doing everything in their power to expedite the process.
“There are certain factors that are beyond our control,” she said. “Land acquisitions, for example.
“Our real estate department has made contact with landowners about acquiring land, but … not all the firm deals are in place.”
As a result, Yong-Lee said she expects completion of the east-west bypass is likely a couple of years away.
“At least,” she said.
So, when the east-west portion is completed, what will it look like?
From Highway 6 to the new development, Yong-Lee said the road will be constructed on a rural cross section as two lanes with a centre median. In the development area, the road will still be two lanes with a median, but it will have a multi-use path on the south side of the roadway.
She noted the bypass route will have restricted access into the developments north of Parkside.
“There are limited road connections to the east-west bypass,” she said. “And no individual driveways that will be accessed to the new east-west road (from homes).
“But there will be certain roads with access.”
The bypass will then intersect at Centre Road with a full four-way traffic signal. East of Centre Road, it will remain a two-lane road, with centre median, to Parkside Drive.
Yong-Lee noted the section between Centre Road and Parkside Drive will mean the existing Waterdown North Wetland Trail, which connects to Joe Sams Park, will need to be realigned.
The bypass will then join Parkside Drive, and eventually connect with Avonsyde Boulevard with a proposed roundabout.
While the east-west bypass will have consequences for Waterdown residents and commuters, it will also impact those outside town — namely, residents of 4th Concession West.
Once the east-west bypass connects to Highway 6, 4th Concession West will be dead-ended at the provincial highway, Yong-Lee confirmed.
She said the decision to close the concession was made based upon the MTO requirement that the number of existing intersections along Highway 6 in the area cannot be increased, citing safety concerns.
However, in an email obtained by the Review from MTO senior project engineer Makael Kakakhel, he said the closure was suggested by the City of Hamilton.
“The ministry did not object to this closure because the road is owned by the City of Hamilton,” Kakakael said of the 4th Concession in the email. “Also, the closure of this road will improve traffic operations on Highway 6 because it will remove an intersection, which is in close proximity to Parkside Drive.”
At least some 4th Concession residents are open to the idea.
Matt and Ashley Moback, who have lived on the road for about two-and-a-half years, said dead-ending the road at Highway 6 would mean a lot less traffic in front of their home.
“We would be all for (less traffic),” Matt said, while admitting the downside would be a longer commute to Waterdown.
“We’d be able to let our dog or our daughter play out front,” Ashley said. “People are going 100 (km/h) by our house.”
Their neighbour Ashley Rusak agreed, noting it would be great not to have the heavy traffic volume, especially when her 10-month-old son Mason is more mobile.
“I think closing it off would really cut down on the major truck traffic, the major speeding that goes on through here,” she said.
However, Elaine Gallant said while it would be nice to be able to walk her dog safely on the road if it were closed, she is concerned about the additional travel time — especially for emergency services to reach her home.
“The worst part is if I was to need an ambulance or a fire truck and they can’t get across (4th Concession),” she said, adding emergency vehicles would either have to use 5th Concession from Highway 6, or Millgrove Sideroad from Highway 5. “They’ve got to go all the way around … while my house is burning down or I’m dead on the floor.”
But Rusak disagreed that the closure would negatively impact emergency services, as she once had to call an ambulance for Mason when access to Highway 6 was blocked by a tree.
“But they got us, through a roundabout way, down to McMaster Children’s Hospital in like 10 minutes,” she said. “So I feel like the access is still good, just from our experience.”
Regardless of the closure of 4th Concession, the Mobacks said the bypass can’t come soon enough.
The family used to live on the east side of Waterdown before moving to their current home and experienced the traffic on Dundas Street first-hand.
“Over the last five or 10 years it’s just gotten nuts in Waterdown,” Ashley said. “It would take like 25 minutes to get into Waterdown to get our groceries, so we would go into Burlington.”
The Mobacks are far from the only ones to experience headaches from Waterdown’s traffic congestion, said David Ferguson, the City of Hamilton’s superintendent of traffic engineering.
“In terms of inquiries we receive, it’s one of the highest areas in terms of complaints,” he said of the community. “Waterdown is an area that we receive inquiries, almost on a daily basis.”
He noted the complaints are often related to traffic diverted off Dundas Street through neighbourhoods, as well as speeding and pedestrian safety concerns.
“It’s people filtering off Dundas or trying to get to Dundas, as a result of congestion throughout the entire area,” he said, noting it has been a steady stream of complaints in the five-and-a-half years he’s been on the job.
Ferguson said the issue is that Dundas narrows to one lane at the pinch points of Hamilton and Mill streets.
“You’ve got multiple lanes that are coming into singles lanes and any time that happens that’s what occurs,” he said of cut-through traffic and congestion.
As a result, he said drivers filter into neighbourhoods, get frustrated and can make bad, more aggressive, driving decisions.
But exactly how much traffic flows through the core in a given day?
A traffic count in May 2018 found almost 26,000 vehicles went through the Main and Dundas intersection in a 24-hour period. More than 10,000 were headed eastbound, while almost 12,000 were westbound.
Meanwhile, a November 2016 traffic count at Mill and Dundas streets found more than 28,000 vehicles went through the intersection. Just over 10,000 were eastbound, while close to 11,000 were headed west.
In comparison, a count in October 2016 at Parkside Drive and Hamilton Street found more than 27,000 vehicles traversed the intersection — with more than 5,000 headed in each direction.
Millgrove’s John Segato is one of the 27,000 who drives through the Parkside intersection — but he avoids Dundas Street in the core whenever possible.
At least four times per week he travels from Millgrove to Mississauga, often taking Centre Road to Parkside, and connecting with Avonsyde Boulevard to Dundas Street and Highway 407.
Segato said in the past 10 years he has made the commute the congestion has increased dramatically.
“It’s much, much worse,” he said. “Ten years ago there was hardly any traffic whatsoever — now it’s congested all the time.”
Segato said he will definitely use the east-west bypass when it is constructed.
“I think when they put the bypass in it will help — that’s for sure.”
For her part, Hughes said she would also use the bypass — anything to get around town more efficiently.
She added the congestion is frustrating for everyone in Waterdown.
“To tell you the truth, I hate it,” she said. “I miss the little town of Waterdown — those were the best days ever.
“Now it’s become a mini Oakville — it’s just ridiculous.”