Sunday, November 11, 2007

Red Hill: Boon or bust?

The Red Hill Valley Parkway here in Hamilton -- possibly one of the most controversial expressways ever built in North America -- finally opens up to the public this Friday. It's long overdue and the opportunity to zip from one end of the city to the other in just minutes and taking heavy truck traffic off arterial roads will be taken advantage of by many who thought the north-south highway, first proposed 50 years ago, would never be built. It's not the panacea for Hamilton's ills but it's an important step.

Even before the opening there have been some successes. It was thought 47,000 trees would have to be cut down; it was more like 15,000 and the highway was built along the valley's eastern slope rather than straight through the middle. A short tunnel for wildlife to pass under -- a ridiculous 30 metres -- was extended to a 400 metre + viaduct; and the creek itself which was once a concrete runway for overflow sewage has been redesigned, so well apparently that salmon are swimming up creek again for the first time since most people can remember. And the trail system built alongside the project has reopened and it's as user-friendly as before, perhaps more so.

Still, together with the east west Lincoln Alexander, the total cost of the project runs to a total of about a half billion. Infrastructure of this nature really is a provincial responsibility, not a local one; and it's going to be a few years before we know whether this was a disaster just waiting to happen or a blessing. Not to mention we've had a several "fifty year storms" the last half decade the highway was being built, not just one.

Will I drive it when it opens? Sure. It'll cut the drive time to my grandmother's place in half.

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SteelCityGrit said...

An environmentally disaster, approximate numbers of trees cut down regardless.

One thing is certain: If you build it they will come, i.e. it will be bumper to bumper within years.

Couple this with the fact the new convenience of which you speak will mean Hamiltonians will be that much less willing to hop on HSR to get up the mountain, the City of Hamilton will be that much less willing to fund HSR, the province and federal governments will see that much less reason to package new public transit money to cities, the HSR will be that much less able to provide a service competitive with personal automobiles, people will be that much less willing to hop on the HSR... and round and round we go.

Jafo said...

It usually takes 2 to 3 years for a fish habitat to bounce back after a major change, as is with Red Hill Creek Expressway. As someone who lives near the new expressway, I see nothing but a major disastor unfolding. There are more and more wild animals in residential areas, traffic pollution will be tenfold and many more.
I found it funny when a CHCH reporter decided to check the difference in how long it took to go from one end of the expressway to the other and then compare it to how long it takes to run the current routes. Says it will take about 15 to 20 minutes off travel time. Odd no-one mentioned he tested out the routes while one had no traffic at all and the other was bumper to bumper.