The Waterdown north-south bypass, seen above in green, is slated to run from Dundas Street, south on Burke Street to Mountain Brow Road, before travelling south on Waterdown Road to Highway 403. – Mac Christie/Metroland
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
This is the third in a four-part series examining Waterdown’s local road infrastructure and how it has been impacted by the development boom.
She stops at Guy B. Brown Elementary School, Waterdown District High School and Guardian Angels Catholic Elementary School, before heading down Waterdown Road to Highway 403, eventually making her way to the Burlington Gymnastics Club on Maple Avenue.
It’s a drive she’s been doing several times per week for the past 10 years.
But lately, Kline has found she has to leave her home earlier and earlier in order to make it to training on time.
After years of leaving at 2 p.m. to make training that begins at 2:30 p.m., she now has to leave five or 10 minutes earlier.
“The whole route that used to take me 5-7 minutes now takes me 12-15,” she noted.
Kline said she recognizes she’s not a traditional commuter — and others may have worse tales of traffic woe.
“I’m sure people who have more traditional hours probably have greater challenges than I do,” she said. “But it’s funny that even in the middle of the day — that 2 p.m. pickup — we’re backing everything up five or 10 minutes because the kids aren’t getting to training on time.”
But beyond her unorthodox commute, Kline said due to her location west of the Waterdown core, driving can be a challenge at the best of times.
“Any time we have to go east, it’s a problem,” she said. “We try to avoid going east on Dundas, but sometimes you’ve just got to do it.”
To help the ever-increasing number of commuters from Waterdown who are heading to Highway 403, Burlington and beyond, the City of Hamilton is planning a north-south bypass route.
The north-south route will run south from Dundas Street on Burke Street, which will connect to Mountain Brow Road. Mountain Brow Road will then connect to a redesigned Waterdown Road, which will be built to a four-lane road base to Highway 403.
Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge noted the Waterdown Road rebuild will be constructed in partnership with the City of Burlington.
“Burlington will actually be building it, although Hamilton is picking up the majority of the cost,” she said, adding such a partnership is uncommon for Hamilton. “Simply because it is being upgraded in order to accommodate the growth in Waterdown.”
According to City of Hamilton costing estimates from 2015, the Waterdown Road project from Craven Avenue in Burlington to Mountain Brow Road is slated to cost more than $14 million — that doesn’t include works on Mountain Brow Road or extending Burke Street.
Dave Ferguson, the City of Hamilton’s superintendent of traffic engineering, said most of the traffic heading through the Waterdown core is commuter traffic.
“They are either working their way east to Burlington or Oakville or Mississauga,” he said. “And when there are big incidents on the 403, Waterdown Road takes an extensive amount of traffic and it filters up into the core.
“That creates a whole whack of other issues for the community.”
In terms of construction, Sally Yong-Lee, the City of Hamilton’s manager of infrastructure planning, said the section of Burke Street that will connect to Mountain Brow Road is slated to be constructed by the Waterdown Bay South developers as part of Mountainview Heights Phase 3. She noted both Burke Street and Mountain Brow will be four-lanes.
In addition, Mountain Brow Road will be dead-ended at Burke Street, with a continuous flow of traffic connecting to Waterdown Road at a traffic signal.
Once Burke Street connects with Mountain Brow, an 800-metre stretch of Mountain Brow will be decommissioned between Burke Street and King Road, she confirmed.
However, Yong-Lee said that doesn’t mean northbound drivers on King Road will be stranded at Mountain Brow. Instead, King Road will connect with the Mountainview Heights development.
“You can still get through,” she said, “you’ll just have to work your way around.”
In 2016, Terry Kelly from the consulting firm Hatch said the Waterdown Road project will see 2.5 kilometres of three-lane road with centre turning lane be built on a four-lane platform.
He noted the redesign will include a 1.2-metre cycling path in the road allowance, in addition to boulevards, sidewalks and a multi-use path. However, the eventual four-lane configuration of the road will not include bike lanes.
In addition, the project will also change the geometry of the road to improve driving sightlines, and is not a symmetrical widening from the existing centre line. Instead, the road will shift to the east in the southern corridor, to the west in the middle portion and east in the northern section
Although the road was slated to be initially painted as a three-lane road with centre turn lane, Yong-Lee said she has suggested that it might be prudent to go immediately to the four-lane design.
“I have raised it with Burlington that maybe they want to rethink (the three-lane striping) and go right to the ultimate four lanes,” she said. “Because most of the development, by the time they get Waterdown Road built, will be completed.”
Like the east-west corridor of the Waterdown bypass, the north-south route has been in the works for some time.
Jeff Thompson, the City of Burlington’s project manager, noted that while the environmental assessment for the road reconstruction was completed in 2012, the project was slowed by three appeals — and the Minister of the Environment did not render a decision and allow the project to move ahead until late 2014.
It has been further delayed due to difficulties with property acquisition — as portions of numerous properties along Waterdown Road need to be purchased to the widen the road base.
In fact, although City of Burlington real estate lawyer Clay Connor said at a 2016 meeting that the land acquisition was slated to take place in 2016 and 2017, it will likely not be completed until 2019.
In terms of the process, Connor said a representative from the city’s real estate department would contact landowners, walk the property together and appraise the property. The landowner will then be given a copy of an appraisal report and can choose to retain their own appraiser to go over the report.
The Review contacted numerous homeowners on Waterdown Road — particularly those located close to the roadway — but while some said all the area homeowners would be impacted by the redesign, none felt comfortable speaking on the record.
Thompson confirmed the project remains in the property acquisition stage. While acquisitions are progressing well for the most part, he noted there are still some that may take more time.
“We’re hoping to have that wrapped up in 2019,” he said. “Then we need environmental agency approvals — that’s essentially Conservation Halton and the Niagara Escarpment Commission.
“If all goes well we’re hoping to start utility relocation later in 2020 and then the main construction contract in 2021.”
Once the main construction contract begins, Thompson said it will likely take more than two years. However, he stressed everything is dependent on land acquisitions and environmental agency approvals.
“It is a little bit behind from what we were hoping for,” he said of the timeline. “And it still could be delayed with the environmental approvals — that’s a little bit of an unknown.”
He added that once construction begins they hope to keep the road open to traffic, but said there may be times it needs to be closed. However, he said it is too early in the process to say for certain what will happen and how traffic would be rerouted.
Once the project is complete and Waterdown Road is rebuilt to four lanes, some residents are concerned about traffic continuing onto Mill Street through the intersection at Mountain Brow Road.
While there are no current plans to prevent the traffic from continuing onto Mill Street, Partridge said once all the bypass infrastructure is done — north-south and east-west — the city will review the traffic patterns on Mill Street.
“Mill Street cannot handle the volume of traffic — you’re going through a heritage district.”
Although the bypass will help commuters travel to and from Highway 403, will it impact the traffic in the core?
That’s what the designers intended, said Partridge, noting the bypass route will not have any homes fronting directly onto Burke Street — or any stoplights. As a result, once drivers reach Burke Street they should be able to travel smoothly to Waterdown Road.
The continuous flow should also help dissuade traffic from travelling up Mill Street, Partridge said.
“So in theory, rather than sitting on Mill Street and Dundas and getting backed up,” she said, “they will take the bypass route and go around because it will be a continuous flow of traffic.”
However, she said it may not help alleviate the traffic in the Waterdown core specifically.
“I’m not so sure you’re going to see a significant amount of difference,” she said of Dundas Street.
However, she stressed the population is going to continue to grow — with more homes being built specifically in the Mountainview Heights and Waterdown Bay South area — and about 550 slated for Flatt Road in Burlington.
While the delays in the project are a concern, she admitted it is difficult to maintain a firm timeline — particularly when it deals with land acquisitions — and part of the road construction is dependent on development.
She noted the section of Burke Street will tie into Mountain Brow Road is part of Mountainview Heights Phase 3, which hasn’t been registered yet. But, she said, final site plan for Phase 3 is expected at the end of 2019.
“Then they can start the development in 2020-21,” she said. “But again, that’s kind of a moving target.”
Despite the delay, Partridge said the north-south bypass is significant for traffic in the community — particularly due to the amount of development in Waterdown.
“By and large, the Burlington portion of the north-south route on Waterdown Road, was necessary because of all the growth that was happening in Waterdown,” she said. “It needed to be upgraded because it just can’t handle that volume of traffic.”
She noted a huge volume of Waterdown residents — and those from east Flamborough — use Waterdown Road to access Highway 403 and the Aldershot GO station. Traffic counts support that contention.
Data from the City of Burlington shows that the annual average daily traffic on Waterdown Road between Craven Road and Flatt Road in 2018 is 11,849.
Kline is often one of those drivers — and the worst traffic snarl she sees is heading home from Burlington on Friday — at 5 p.m.
“There’s just no easy way to enter this town at 5 p.m. on Friday,” she said. “I’m just crawling through Waterdown, crawling up Mill Street or along Highway 5.
“It takes me 40 minutes to get home when — it’s never really ever taken that long — it used to take 20 minutes.”
But despite the ongoing Waterdown traffic woes, Kline said it’s all an expected byproduct of growth.
“I grew up in Markham and it went through a very similar change,” she said. “I think we have to expect it.”
Kline, who acknowledged the completed bypass routes will greatly improve her commute — said it’s important for Waterdown residents to be patient with the traffic issues.
“It’s a great town, so we’ve just got to remember that and not get too crazy; we’ve got to be more patient,” Kline said. “We are lucky enough to live here.
“We really just need to try and be more patient and let things evolve as they need to.”