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Emergency detour routes approved for Highway 403

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 Hamilton will finally get detour routes along Highway 403 that could help prevent the almost constant massive traffic tie-ups that continue to plague the roadway.

“This is long overdue,” said Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson. “The closures on Highway 403 are awful.”

The roadway has seen more than its share of traffic accidents that have either backed up the highway, or event closed it down altogether. Last week Ferguson was late for a government issues committee morning meeting because he was stuck in traffic, which has become all too common for motorists.

“I was sitting on the darn highway late for a meeting,” he said.

He said any heavy traffic back ups, or when the OPP closes the road, forces motorists to flood the Ancaster community and the nearby west Mountain neighbourhood roads searching for a way out of the area.

“It plugs up Ancaster, it plugs up Wilson Street, it plugs up Garner Road,” said Ferguson.

Between 2005 to 2013 Highway 403 has been closed 51 times, with the average length of time the roadway was closed for 4.78 hours. The long shut down is due to OPP investigations, especially if there are fatalities and the more thorough cleanup efforts after the accident.

“There is a need to establish an EDR for Highway 403, and the QEW to take traffic aroundHamilton(and) remove traffic from the local road network,” said David Ferguson, superintendent of traffic engineering for the city.

The plan, says Ferguson, includes short and long detour routes. The long distance detour routes will involve re-directing traffic onto Highway 52, Highway 5 and Highway 6, with a secondary detour route on the Lincoln Alexander Parkwayand the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

The short detour routes includes Garden Avenue to Highway 52,  then to Wilson Street, followed by Highway 6 to the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, to Aberdeen  to King Street West and York Boulevard, through Hamilton’s downtown to Plain Road and Highway 403.

Hamilton and the province have not had an emergency detour route for Highway 403 and the QEW. TheLincoln Alexander Parkwayhas had an EDR since 2011, while theRed Hill Valley Parkway will be getting one soon.

Ferguson acknowledged the ministry needs to install variable message boards to inform motorists of the detour routes to make the routes effective. Councillors also wanted the ministry to include Highway 403 in its COMPASS Freeway Traffic Management System, which would involve installing cameras to inform residents about the daily traffic issues on Highway 403.

City staff said implementation of the detour routes will take about a year.

Ferguson cautioned members of the public works committee members the routes won’t eliminate congestion and further backups will happen. Local residents will know how to navigate through the city during a highway closure, he said. The detour routes are primarily for non-residents who don’t know the city’s road network. The ministry will pay the cost for implementing the detour routes, including the message boards.

Ferguson said the detour routes could reduce the traffic volume through city roads by about one-third.

“It will create congestion on our roadways. There is no way around that,” said Ferguson.

He pointed out the Red Hill Valley Parkway and the Lincoln Alexander Parkway are already at capacity and further vehicles will only add to the congestion.

City staff said the province has already shot down any proposals to add another lane to Highway 403, especially where the roadway merges with theLincoln Alexander Parkway. Every morning, saidFerguson, there are traffic tie ups near the Niagara Escarpment, creating long lines along the highways.

“We have had discussions with the ministry,” said Ferguson. “(Adding another lane) is not part of their 10-year capital budget.”

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