Specifically, the pedestrian crossing's safety is being threatened by Ward 13 councillor Russ Powers' call for increasing the speed limit through the crossing to 60km/h, from the current 40 km/h. [read TLC's letter to Powers here]
The 40 km/h limit was put in place after calls to calm the rampant speeding through this area, busy as it is with pedestrian and cycling traffic crossing the road. A fatality in the vicinity (February 13, 2006) involving a McMaster Student heightened the need for action to ensure a safer environment.
You can check out a City of Hamilton link to the original data, including the October 2004 recommendations by the firm Synectics, who were hired by the City of Hamilton to study the situation on Cootes Drive at the level crossing, and make recommendations.
The full Synectics report, as a large pdf, can be downloaded here.
In January 2004, TLC wrote to the city:
We think that the only alternative that can allow for a safe Cootes crossing is a pedestrian/cyclist activated traffic signal and physical traffic-calming measures to slow traffic (ex. raised table).Later that year, in October 2004, the Synectics report for the city came to the same conclusion:TLC letter re: class EA for the proposed
Ainslie Wood/Westdale neighbourhoods transportation master plan
"To address the high pedestrian-cyclist crossing volumes:The report also made recommendations to address excessive vehicle speeds, with no apparent follow-up or action by the city:
Install a midblock pedestrian signal, providing operation that would coordinate the signal with the existing traffic signal at Main and Cootes."
"Excessive speed – Despite the presence of a posted 60 km/h speed limit, the ATR speed data recorded in the vicinity of the crosswalk indicate that vehicles are for the most part traveling at excessive speeds. The combination of excessive speed and the high pedestrian-bicycle crossing volume create a particularly hazardous situation."
"To address excessive vehicle speeds on Cootes Drive:Rather than do what is required to reduce speeding, Councillor Powers is suggesting that, since speeding continues, we should simply raise the speed limit. TLC is adamant that this not happen, for obvious reasons of safety, and to fulfil the initial recommendations that came with the need for the pedestrian signal.
- Provision of horizontal deflection, in the form of lane narrowing;
- Provide increased police speed enforcement or use of a speed trailer; and
- Changing the roadside environment to discourage high vehicle operating speeds."
Indeed, as reported in the Dundas Star News (May 11, 2007), TLC's position on the 40km/h limit was that signs aren't enough:
"TLC has requested the two lane road be narrowed to one, then widen out again where Cootes meets Main Street West to maintain traffic capacity.-30-
[TLC} believes that's a better way to slow down traffic because drivers will ignore new posted speed limits."
[excerpt from Synectics report:]
Speed data was collected at two locations: Station 1 (north of the Westaway Road overpass) and Station 2 (immediately north of the study site). Based on a review of the speed data, it was determined that a majority of vehicles at Station 1 are traveling above the posted speed limit (80 km/h). The 85th percentile speeds in the northbound lanes were observed to be higher than speeds in the southbound lanes (100 and 93 km/h compared to 90 and 87 km/h). The relatively high speeds are not surprising, given the roadway environment [emphasis added].
At Station 2, a very high percentage of vehicles were observed traveling above the lower speed limit (60 km/h). Overall, though, speeds are lower than at Station 1. The 85th percentile speeds in the northbound lanes were observed to be slightly higher than speed in the southbound lanes (84 and 76 km/h compared to 75 and 73 km/h).