Better interchanges key to expressway expansion
April 23, 2010
Road Ahead column by Jeff Outhit
Ontario is still working on its overdue plans to widen the expressway in west Kitchener. But it has not set a start date for construction.
Itís important to widen Highway 7/8 between Fischer-Hallman Road and Courtland Avenue. The overwhelmed highway regularly backs up as commuters head to west Kitchener neighbourhoods.
The province announced $150 million in funding last year. Ministry of Transportation spokesperson Bob Nichols now says the construction launch is ďsubject to change based on funding, design, environmental approvals, property acquisition and construction requirements.Ē When work begins, it will take three years.
An open house is planned to solicit public input into the highway design. Itís on April 28 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Concordia Club at 429 Ottawa St. S. in Kitchener.
The proposed expansion includes:
Widening from four to six lanes, plus the addition of a median barrier. There would be eight lanes between Courtland and Homer Watson Boulevard. This will ease bottlenecks and improve safety, by keeping out-of-control cars from sliding into oncoming traffic across the grassy median. Planners now intend to widen the road almost two kilometres west of Fischer-Hallman.
Remodelled interchanges at Courtland, Homer Watson Boulevard and Fischer-Hallman.
Better lighting and some new noise barriers, to better shield adjacent neighbourhoods.
All this makes sense. The biggest challenges are the non-standard interchanges, which are generally overwhelmed and rather awkwardly built.
Plans for the Fischer-Hallman interchange include the addition of an eastbound on-ramp. This would help ease the traffic mess near the Sunrise shopping centre.
At the Homer Watson interchange, local planners have proposed a second on-ramp to the eastbound expressway, at Alpine Road. If approved, it would ease pressure on the eastbound on-ramp at Ottawa Street. Itís overwhelmed, which contributes to headaches at Ottawa and Homer Watson.
Greenbrook Drive resident John Innanen has pitched connecting the dead end of Highland Road to the westbound off-ramp, just metres away. This would provide a smoother expressway exit for northbound vehicles. It would likely draw traffic from busy Greenbrook. However, it might increase Highland traffic, while also putting more trucks and cars past Queen Elizabeth Public School, next to the interchange. Thatís a trade-off that may not win support.
There are no plans to connect the expressway to Westmount Road.
The last open house on expressway widening drew 47 people in 2006. A stronger turnout would be helpful as the project inches closer to its launch.
Jeff Outhit can be reached at 519-895-5642 or firstname.lastname@example.org