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Huge road building plans

Oct 02, 2017

City staff want $52 million in next year’s budget to begin making the aerotropolis lands more attractive for hoped-for industrial development. At the same time they are renewing the demand that the province allocate hundreds of millions to fast-track a full interchange at Clappison’s Corners as well as widen the 403 to make it faster for courier companies that feed the airport cargo flows.

The multiple road growth projects are outlined in two reports going to councillors this week. Both point to economic development as the justification for new or expanded roads. Neither mentions the growing shortfall in maintaining existing city infrastructure that now exceeds $3.5 billion.

“More and more concerns have been expressed by our airport operator and related courier / cargo businesses, regarding increased congestion along the Highway 403, between Highway 6 and Main Street,” explains the annual inventory of shovel-ready industrial land. “This is creating major delays for goods movement, which negatively impacts their business operations. To this end, staff would consider widening of this portion of the 403 Highway, as beneficial and critical for goods movement in the AEGD [Airport Employment Growth District previously known as the Aerotropolis] and the success of the Hamilton Airport.”

The most recent cost estimate for the Clappison’s Corners interchange is $75 million. The price tag to widen the 403 to three lanes up and down the escarpment has not been made available. The provincial government currently has three local projects along the Hamilton section of the 403 including two along the section that the city wants widened.

There’s an $8 million project underway to address recurrent flooding by Chedoke Creek and the Upper Cascade stream between Main Street and the top of the escarpment, and nearly $12 million in repaving work from Mohawk Road to Wilson Street. Further north, $14 million is being spent by the Wynne government to replace the bridge over the Desjardins Canal just below the high level bridge – that’s the most recent in an extended bridge replacement being conducted by the province along the half-century old expressway.

The city’s push for much more provincial spending on the 403 as well as the Clappison’s Corners project are part of a report by the growth management division that inventories Hamilton’s 279 hectares of “shovel-ready” industrial lands including 40 hectares in the AEGD. The second report heading to council’s general issues committee recommends initiation of major spending on roads and pipes to service more of the airport-area lands.

Originally proposed in 2001 as an aerotropolis that would drive Hamilton’s industrial future, two and a half years ago the city obtained Ontario Municipal Board approval for 555 net hectares of urban boundary expansion to accommodate what is now called the AEGD. Seven years ago, consultants estimated that $351 million would be needed to provide new roads, water and sewer pipes and other infrastructure to make the AEGD ready for new industries.

This week’s report says that work has been broken down into 44 project groupings and recommends beginning six of those next year at a cost of $52 million. These include widening and extending Dickenson Road and creating new collector roads on the north side of the airport. 

The report assures councillors that “the majority of these construction costs will be covered by development charges, with the remaining amount to be absorbed by developers and private land owners upon development.” Development charges can only be collected if and when new industries are actually established on the AEGD lands. The city also discounts these fees by about fifty percent to try to out-compete other municipalities with the shortfall made up by local taxpayers.

The accompanying report acknowledges that no development applications for the airport area have occurred in the last year, but says “there are a series of additional investments opportunities at the Hamilton International Airport, which our airport operator and city staff continue to pursue.” The only non-residential growth that has occurred in recent years was “a new 0.7 ha temperature-controlled cargo facility” that was two-thirds funded by government with the remainder covered by the airport management company. 

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